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Lyrical Ballads

with other poems

in two volumes.

by W. Wordsworth

Quam nihil ad genium, Papiniane, tuum! According to J. Robert Barth in The Symbolic Imagination: Coleridge and the Romantic Tradition (New York: Fordham University Press, 2001) p. 64, this can be loosely translated as something not at all to your liking, Papinian!, with Papiniane humorously referring to follower of Alexander Pope.



This edition was adapted from the Project Gutenberg e-text of 2003



The First Volume of these Poems has already been submitted to general perusal. It was published, as an experiment which, I hoped, might be of some use to ascertain, how far, by fitting to metrical arrangement a selection of the real language of men in a state of vivid sensation, that sort of pleasure and that quantity of pleasure may be imparted, which a Poet may rationally endeavour to impart.

I had formed no very inaccurate estimate of the probable effect of those Poems: I flattered myself that they who should be pleased with them would read them with more than common pleasure: and on the other hand I was well aware that by those who should dislike them they would be read with more than common dislike. The result has differed from my expectation in this only, that I have pleased a greater number, than I ventured to hope I should please.

For the sake of variety and from a consciousness of my own weakness I was induced to request the assistance of a Friend, who furnished me with the Poems of the ANCIENT MARINER, the FOSTER-MOTHER’S TALE, the NIGHTINGALE, the DUNGEON, and the Poem entitled LOVE. I should not, however, have requested this assistance, had I not believed that the poems of my Friend would in a great measure have the same tendency as my own, and that, though there would be found a difference, there would be found no discordance in the colours of our style; as our opinions on the subject of poetry do almost entirely coincide.

Several of my Friends are anxious for the success of these Poems from a belief, that if the views, with which they were composed, were indeed realized, a class of Poetry would be produced, well adapted to interest mankind permanently, and not unimportant in the multiplicity and in the quality of its moral relations: and on this account they have advised me to prefix a systematic defence of the theory, upon which the poems were written. But I was unwilling to undertake the task, because I knew that on this occasion the Reader would look coldly upon my arguments, since I might be suspected of having been principally influenced by the selfish and foolish hope of reasoning him into an approbation of these particular Poems: and I was still more unwilling to undertake the task, because adequately to display my opinions and fully to enforce my arguments would require a space wholly disproportionate to the nature of a preface. For to treat the subject with the clearness and coherence, of which I believe it susceptible, it would be necessary to give a full account of the present state of the public taste in this country, and to determine how far this taste is healthy or depraved; which again could not be determined, without pointing out, in what manner language and the human mind act and react on each other, and without retracing the revolutions not of literature alone but likewise of society itself. I have therefore altogether declined to enter regularly upon this defence; yet I am sensible, that there would be some impropriety in abruptly obtruding upon the Public, without a few words of introduction, Poems so materially different from those, upon which general approbation is at present bestowed.

It is supposed, that by the act of writing in verse an Author makes a formal engagement that he will gratify certain known habits of association, that he not only thus apprizes the Reader that certain classes of ideas and expressions will be found in his book, but that others will be carefully excluded. This exponent or symbol held forth by metrical language must in different aeras of literature have excited very different expectations: for example, in the age of Catullus Terence and Lucretius, and that of Statius or Claudian, and in our own country, in the age of Shakespeare and Beaumont and Fletcher, and that of Donne and Cowley, or Dryden, or Pope. I will not take upon me to determine the exact import of the promise which by the act of writing in verse an Author in the present day makes to his Reader; but I am certain it will appear to many persons that I have not fulfilled the terms of an engagement thus voluntarily contracted. I hope therefore the Reader will not censure me, if I attempt to state what I have proposed to myself to perform, and also, (as far as the limits of a preface will permit) to explain some of the chief reasons which have determined me in the choice of my purpose: that at least he may be spared any unpleasant feeling of disappointment, and that I myself may be protected from the most dishonorable accusation which can be brought against an Author, namely, that of an indolence which prevents him from endeavouring to ascertain what is his duty, or, when his duty is ascertained prevents him from performing it.

The principal object then which I proposed to myself in these Poems was to make the incidents of common life interesting by tracing in them, truly though not ostentatiously, the primary laws of our nature: chiefly as far as regards the manner in which we associate ideas in a state of excitement. Low and rustic life was generally chosen because in that situation the essential passions of the heart find a better soil in which they can attain their maturity, are less under restraint, and speak a plainer and more emphatic language; because in that situation our elementary feelings exist in a state of greater simplicity and consequently may be more accurately contemplated and more forcibly communicated; because the manners of rural life germinate from those elementary feelings; and from the necessary character of rural occupations are more easily comprehended; and are more durable; and lastly, because in that situation the passions of men are incorporated with the beautiful and permanent forms of nature. The language too of these men is adopted (purified indeed from what appear to be its real defects, from all lasting and rational causes of dislike or disgust) because such men hourly communicate with the best objects from which the best part of language is originally derived; and because, from their rank in society and the sameness and narrow circle of their intercourse, being less under the action of social vanity they convey their feelings and notions in simple and unelaborated expressions. Accordingly such a language arising out of repeated experience and regular feelings is a more permanent and a far more philosophical language than that which is frequently substituted for it by Poets, who think that they are conferring honour upon themselves and their art in proportion as they separate themselves from the sympathies of men, and indulge in arbitrary and capricious habits of expression in order to furnish food for fickle tastes and fickle appetites of their own creation.[1]

[Footnote 1: It is worth while here to observe that the affecting parts of Chaucer are almost always expressed in language pure and universally intelligible even to this day.]

I cannot be insensible of the present outcry against the triviality and meanness both of thought and language, which some of my contemporaries have occasionally introduced into their metrical compositions; and I acknowledge that this defect where it exists, is more dishonorable to the Writer’s own character than false refinement or arbitrary innovation, though I should contend at the same time that it is far less pernicious in the sum of its consequences. From such verses the Poems in these volumes will be found distinguished at least by one mark of difference, that each of them has a worthy purpose. Not that I mean to say, that I always began to write with a distinct purpose formally conceived; but I believe that my habits of meditation have so formed my feelings, as that my descriptions of such objects as strongly excite those feelings, will be found to carry along with them a purpose. If in this opinion I am mistaken I can have little right to the name of a Poet. For all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings; but though this be true, Poems to which any value can be attached, were never produced on any variety of subjects but by a man who being possessed of more than usual organic sensibility had also thought long and deeply. For our continued influxes of feeling are modified and directed by our thoughts, which are indeed the representatives of all our past feelings; and as by contemplating the relation of these general representatives to each other, we discover what is really important to men, so by the repetition and continuance of this act feelings connected with important subjects will be nourished, till at length, if we be originally possessed of much organic sensibility, such habits of mind will be produced that by obeying blindly and mechanically the impulses of those habits we shall describe objects and utter sentiments of such a nature and in such connection with each other, that the understanding of the being to whom we address ourselves, if he be in a healthful state of association, must necessarily be in some degree enlightened, his taste exalted, and his affections ameliorated.

I have said that each of these poems has a purpose. I have also informed my Reader what this purpose will be found principally to be: namely to illustrate the manner in which our feelings and ideas are associated in a state of excitement. But speaking in less general language, it is to follow the fluxes and refluxes of the mind when agitated by the great and simple affections of our nature. This object I have endeavoured in these short essays to attain by various means; by tracing the maternal passion through many of its more subtle windings, as in the poems of the IDIOT BOY and the MAD MOTHER; by accompanying the last struggles of a human being at the approach of death, cleaving in solitude to life and society, as in the Poem of the FORSAKEN INDIAN; by shewing, as in the Stanzas entitled WE ARE SEVEN, the perplexity and obscurity which in childhood attend our notion of death, or rather our utter inability to admit that notion; or by displaying the strength of fraternal, or to speak more philosophically, of moral attachment when early associated with the great and beautiful objects of nature, as in THE BROTHERS; or, as in the Incident of SIMON LEE, by placing my Reader in the way of receiving from ordinary moral sensations another and more salutary impression than we are accustomed to receive from them. It has also been part of my general purpose to attempt to sketch characters under the influence of less impassioned feelings, as in the OLD MAN TRAVELLING, THE TWO THIEVES, &c. characters of which the elements are simple, belonging rather to nature than to manners, such as exist now and will probably always exist, and which from their constitution may be distinctly and profitably contemplated. I will not abuse the indulgence of my Reader by dwelling longer upon this subject; but it is proper that I should mention one other circumstance which distinguishes these Poems from the popular Poetry of the day; it is this, that the feeling therein developed gives importance to the action and situation and not the action and situation to the feeling. My meaning will be rendered perfectly intelligible by referring my Reader to the Poems entitled POOR SUSAN and the CHILDLESS FATHER, particularly to the last Stanza of the latter Poem.

I will not suffer a sense of false modesty to prevent me from asserting, that I point my Reader’s attention to this mark of distinction far less for the sake of these particular Poems than from the general importance of the subject. The subject is indeed important! For the human mind is capable of excitement without the application of gross and violent stimulants; and he must have a very faint perception of its beauty and dignity who does not know this, and who does not further know that one being is elevated above another in proportion as he possesses this capability. It has therefore appeared to me that to endeavour to produce or enlarge this capability is one of the best services in which, at any period, a Writer can be engaged; but this service, excellent at all times, is especially so at the present day. For a multitude of causes unknown to former times are now acting with a combined force to blunt the discriminating powers of the mind, and unfitting it for all voluntary exertion to reduce it to a state of almost savage torpor. The most effective of these causes are the great national events which are daily taking place, and the encreasing accumulation of men in cities, where the uniformity of their occupations produces a craving for extraordinary incident which the rapid communication of intelligence hourly gratifies. To this tendency of life and manners the literature and theatrical exhibitions of the country have conformed themselves. The invaluable works of our elder writers, I had almost said the works of Shakespeare and Milton, are driven into neglect by frantic novels, sickly and stupid German Tragedies, and deluges of idle and extravagant stories in verse.—When I think upon this degrading thirst after outrageous stimulation I am almost ashamed to have spoken of the feeble effort with which I have endeavoured to counteract it; and reflecting upon the magnitude of the general evil, I should be oppressed with no dishonorable melancholy, had I not a deep impression of certain inherent and indestructible qualities of the human mind, and likewise of certain powers in the great and permanent objects that act upon it which are equally inherent and indestructible; and did I not further add to this impression a belief that the time is approaching when the evil will be systematically opposed by men of greater powers and with far more distinguished success.

Having dwelt thus long on the subjects and aim of these Poems, I shall request the Reader’s permission to apprize him of a few circumstances relating to their style, in order, among other reasons, that I may not be censured for not having performed what I never attempted. Except in a very few instances the Reader will find no personifications of abstract ideas in these volumes, not that I mean to censure such personifications: they may be well fitted for certain sorts of composition, but in these Poems I propose to myself to imitate, and, as far as possible, to adopt the very language of men, and I do not find that such personifications make any regular or natural part of that language. I wish to keep my Reader in the company of flesh and blood, persuaded that by so doing I shall interest him. Not but that I believe that others who pursue a different track may interest him likewise: I do not interfere with their claim, I only wish to prefer a different claim of my own. There will also be found in these volumes little of what is usually called poetic diction; I have taken as much pains to avoid it as others ordinarily take to produce it; this I have done for the reason already alleged, to bring my language near to the language of men, and further, because the pleasure which I have proposed to myself to impart is of a kind very different from that which is supposed by many persons to be the proper object of poetry. I do not know how without being culpably particular I can give my Reader a more exact notion of the style in which I wished these poems to be written than by informing him that I have at all times endeavoured to look steadily at my subject, consequently I hope it will be found that there is in these Poems little falsehood of description, and that my ideas are expressed in language fitted to their respective importance. Something I must have gained by this practice, as it is friendly to one property of all good poetry, namely good sense; but it has necessarily cut me off from a large portion of phrases and figures of speech which from father to son have long been regarded as the common inheritance of Poets. I have also thought it expedient to restrict myself still further, having abstained from the use of many expressions, in themselves proper and beautiful, but which have been foolishly repeated by bad Poets till such feelings of disgust are connected with them as it is scarcely possible by any art of association to overpower.

If in a Poem there should be found a series of lines, or even a single line, in which the language, though naturally arranged and according to the strict laws of metre, does not differ from that of prose, there is a numerous class of critics who, when they stumble upon these prosaisms as they call them, imagine that they have made a notable discovery, and exult over the Poet as over a man ignorant of his own profession. Now these men would establish a canon of criticism which the Reader will conclude he must utterly reject if he wishes to be pleased with these volumes. And it would be a most easy task to prove to him that not only the language of a large portion of every good poem, even of the most elevated character, must necessarily, except with reference to the metre, in no respect differ from that of good prose, but likewise that some of the most interesting parts of the best poems will be found to be strictly the language of prose when prose is well written. The truth of this assertion might be demonstrated by innumerable passages from almost all the poetical writings, even of Milton himself. I have not space for much quotation; but, to illustrate the subject in a general manner, I will here adduce a short composition of Gray, who was at the head of those who by their reasonings have attempted to widen the space of separation betwixt Prose and Metrical composition, and was more than any other man curiously elaborate in the structure of his own poetic diction.

1In vain to me the smiling mornings shine,
2And reddening Phoebus lifts his golden fire:
3The birds in vain their amorous descant join,
4Or chearful fields resume their green attire:
5These ears alas! for other notes repine;
6 A different object do these eyes require;
7 My lonely anguish melts no heart but mine;
8 And in my breast the imperfect joys expire;
9Yet Morning smiles the busy race to cheer,
10And new-born pleasure brings to happier men;
11The fields to all their wonted tribute bear;
12To warm their little loves the birds complain.
13 I fruitless mourn to him that cannot hear
14 And weep the more because I weep in vain.

It will easily be perceived that the only part of this Sonnet which is of any value is the lines printed in Italics: it is equally obvious that except in the rhyme, and in the use of the single word “fruitless” for fruitlessly, which is so far a defect, the language of these lines does in no respect differ from that of prose.

Is there then, it will be asked, no essential difference between the language of prose and metrical composition? I answer that there neither is nor can be any essential difference. We are fond of tracing the resemblance between Poetry and Painting, and, accordingly, we call them Sisters: but where shall we find bonds of connection sufficiently strict to typify the affinity betwixt metrical and prose composition? They both speak by and to the same organs; the bodies in which both of them are clothed may be said to be of the same substance, their affections are kindred and almost identical, not necessarily differing even in degree; Poetry [2] sheds no tears “such as Angels weep,” but natural and human tears; she can boast of no celestial Ichor that distinguishes her vital juices from those of prose; the same human blood circulates through the veins of them both.

[Footnote 2: I here use the word “Poetry” (though against my own judgment) as opposed to the word Prose, and synonomous with metrical composition. But much confusion has been introduced into criticism by this contradistinction of Poetry and Prose, instead of the more philosophical one of Poetry and Science. The only strict antithesis to Prose is Metre.]

If it be affirmed that rhyme and metrical arrangement of themselves constitute a distinction which overturns what I have been saying on the strict affinity of metrical language with that of prose, and paves the way for other distinctions which the mind voluntarily admits, I answer that the distinction of rhyme and metre is regular and uniform, and not, like that which is produced by what is usually called poetic diction, arbitrary and subject to infinite caprices upon which no calculation whatever can be made. In the one case the Reader is utterly at the mercy of the Poet respecting what imagery or diction he may choose to connect with the passion, whereas in the other the metre obeys certain laws, to which the Poet and Reader both willingly submit because they are certain, and because no interference is made by them with the passion but such as the concurring testimony of ages has shewn to heighten and improve the pleasure which co-exists with it. It will now be proper to answer an obvious question, namely, why, professing these opinions have I written in verse? To this in the first place I reply, because, however I may have restricted myself, there is still left open to me what confessedly constitutes the most valuable object of all writing whether in prose or verse, the great and universal passions of men, the most general and interesting of their occupations, and the entire world of nature, from which I am at liberty to supply myself with endless combinations of forms and imagery. Now, granting for a moment that whatever is interesting in these objects may be as vividly described in prose, why am I to be condemned if to such description I have endeavoured to superadd the charm which by the consent of all nations is acknowledged to exist in metrical language? To this it will be answered, that a very small part of the pleasure given by Poetry depends upon the metre, and that it is injudicious to write in metre unless it be accompanied with the other artificial distinctions of style with which metre is usually accompanied, and that by such deviation more will be lost from the shock which will be thereby given to the Reader’s associations than will be counterbalanced by any pleasure which he can derive from the general power of numbers. In answer to those who thus contend for the necessity of accompanying metre with certain appropriate colours of style in order to the accomplishment of its appropriate end, and who also, in my opinion, greatly under-rate the power of metre in itself, it might perhaps be almost sufficient to observe that poems are extant, written upon more humble subjects, and in a more naked and simple style than what I have aimed at, which poems have continued to give pleasure from generation to generation. Now, if nakedness and simplicity be a defect, the fact here mentioned affords a strong presumption that poems somewhat less naked and simple are capable of affording pleasure at the present day; and all that I am now attempting is to justify myself for having written under the impression of this belief.

But I might point out various causes why, when the style is manly, and the subject of some importance, words metrically arranged will long continue to impart such a pleasure to mankind as he who is sensible of the extent of that pleasure will be desirous to impart. The end of Poetry is to produce excitement in coexistence with an overbalance of pleasure. Now, by the supposition, excitement is an unusual and irregular state of the mind; ideas and feelings do not in that state succeed each other in accustomed order. But if the words by which this excitement is produced are in themselves powerful, or the images and feelings have an undue proportion of pain connected with them, there is some danger that the excitement may be carried beyond its proper bounds. Now the co-presence of something regular, something to which the mind has been accustomed when in an unexcited or a less excited state, cannot but have great efficacy in tempering and restraining the passion by an intertexture of ordinary feeling. This may be illustrated by appealing to the Reader’s own experience of the reluctance with which he comes to the re-perusal of the distressful parts of Clarissa Harlowe, or the Gamester. While Shakespeare’s writings, in the most pathetic scenes, never act upon us as pathetic beyond the bounds of pleasure—an effect which is in a great degree to be ascribed to small, but continual and regular impulses of pleasurable surprise from the metrical arrangement.—On the other hand (what it must be allowed will much more frequently happen) if the Poet’s words should be incommensurate with the passion, and inadequate to raise the Reader to a height of desirable excitement, then, (unless the Poet’s choice of his metre has been grossly injudicious) in the feelings of pleasure which the Reader has been accustomed to connect with metre in general, and in the feeling, whether chearful or melancholy, which he has been accustomed to connect with that particular movement of metre, there will be found something which will greatly contribute to impart passion to the words, and to effect the complex end which the Poet proposes to himself.

If I had undertaken a systematic defence of the theory upon which these poems are written, it would have been my duty to develope the various causes upon which the pleasure received from metrical language depends. Among the chief of these causes is to be reckoned a principle which must be well known to those who have made any of the Arts the object of accurate reflection; I mean the pleasure which the mind derives from the perception of similitude in dissimilitude. This principle is the great spring of the activity of our minds and their chief feeder. From this principle the direction of the sexual appetite, and all the passions connected with it take their origin: It is the life of our ordinary conversation; and upon the accuracy with which similitude in dissimilitude, and dissimilitude in similitude are perceived, depend our taste and our moral feelings. It would not have been a useless employment to have applied this principle to the consideration of metre, and to have shewn that metre is hence enabled to afford much pleasure, and to have pointed out in what manner that pleasure is produced. But my limits will not permit me to enter upon this subject, and I must content myself with a general summary.

I have said that Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity: the emotion is contemplated till by a species of reaction the tranquillity gradually disappears, and an emotion, similar to that which was before the subject of contemplation, is gradually produced, and does itself actually exist in the mind. In this mood successful composition generally begins, and in a mood similar to this it is carried on; but the emotion, of whatever kind and in whatever degree, from various causes is qualified by various pleasures, so that in describing any passions whatsoever, which are voluntarily described, the mind will upon the whole be in a state of enjoyment. Now if Nature be thus cautious in preserving in a state of enjoyment a being thus employed, the Poet ought to profit by the lesson thus held forth to him, and ought especially to take care, that whatever passions he communicates to his Reader, those passions, if his Reader’s mind be sound and vigorous, should always be accompanied with an overbalance of pleasure. Now the music of harmonious metrical language, the sense of difficulty overcome, and the blind association of pleasure which has been previously received from works of rhyme or metre of the same or similar construction, all these imperceptibly make up a complex feeling of delight, which is of the most important use in tempering the painful feeling which will always be found intermingled with powerful descriptions of the deeper passions. This effect is always produced in pathetic and impassioned poetry; while in lighter compositions the ease and gracefulness with which the Poet manages his numbers are themselves confessedly a principal source of the gratification of the Reader. I might perhaps include all which it is necessary to say upon this subject by affirming what few persons will deny, that of two descriptions either of passions, manners, or characters, each of them equally well executed, the one in prose and the other in verse, the verse will be read a hundred times where the prose is read once. We see that Pope by the power of verse alone, has contrived to render the plainest common sense interesting, and even frequently to invest it with the appearance of passion. In consequence of these convictions I related in metre the Tale of GOODY BLAKE and HARRY GILL, which is one of the rudest of this collection. I wished to draw attention to the truth that the power of the human imagination is sufficient to produce such changes even in our physical nature as might almost appear miraculous. The truth is an important one; the fact (for it is a fact) is a valuable illustration of it. And I have the satisfaction of knowing that it has been communicated to many hundreds of people who would never have heard of it, had it not been narrated as a Ballad, and in a more impressive metre than is usual in Ballads.

Having thus adverted to a few of the reasons why I have written in verse, and why I have chosen subjects from common life, and endeavoured to bring my language near to the real language of men, if I have been too minute in pleading my own cause, I have at the same time been treating a subject of general interest; and it is for this reason that I request the Reader’s permission to add a few words with reference solely to these particular poems, and to some defects which will probably be found in them. I am sensible that my associations must have sometimes been particular instead of general, and that, consequently, giving to things a false importance, sometimes from diseased impulses I may have written upon unworthy subject; but I am less apprehensive on this account, than that my language may frequently have suffered from those arbitrary connections of feelings and ideas with particular words, from which no man can altogether protect himself. Hence I have no doubt that in some instances feelings even of the ludicrous may be given to my Readers by expressions which appeared to me tender and pathetic. Such faulty expressions, were I convinced they were faulty at present, and that they must necessarily continue to be so, I would willingly take all reasonable pains to correct. But it is dangerous to make these alterations on the simple authority of a few individuals, or even of certain classes of men; for where the understanding of an Author is not convinced, or his feelings altered, this cannot be done without great injury to himself: for his own feelings are his stay and support, and if he sets them aside in one instance, he may be induced to repeat this act till his mind loses all confidence in itself and becomes utterly debilitated. To this it may be added, that the Reader ought never to forget that he is himself exposed to the same errors as the Poet, and perhaps in a much greater degree: for there can be no presumption in saying that it is not probable he will be so well acquainted with the various stages of meaning through which words have passed, or with the fickleness or stability of the relations of particular ideas to each other; and above all, since he is so much less interested in the subject, he may decide lightly and carelessly.

Long as I have detained my Reader, I hope he will permit me to caution him against a mode of false criticism which has been applied to Poetry in which the language closely resembles that of life and nature. Such verses have been triumphed over in parodies of which Dr. Johnson’s Stanza is a fair specimen.

15“I put my hat upon my head,
16And walk’d into the Strand,
17And there I met another man
18Whose hat was in his hand.”

Immediately under these lines I will place one of the most justly admired stanzas of the “Babes in the Wood.”

19“These pretty Babes with hand in hand
20Went wandering up and down;
21But never more they saw the Man
22Approaching from the Town.”

In both of these stanzas the words, and the order of the words, in no respect differ from the most unimpassioned conversation. There are words in both, for example, “the Strand,” and “the Town,” connected with none but the most familiar ideas; yet the one stanza we admit as admirable, and the other as a fair example of the superlatively contemptible. Whence arises this difference? Not from the metre, not from the language, not from the order of the words; but the matter expressed in Dr. Johnson’s stanza is contemptible. The proper method of treating trivial and simple verses to which Dr. Johnson’s stanza would be a fair parallelism is not to say this is a bad kind of poetry, or this is not poetry, but this wants sense; it is neither interesting in itself, nor can lead to any thing interesting; the images neither originate in that sane state of feeling which arises out of thought, nor can excite thought or feeling in the Reader. This is the only sensible manner of dealing with such verses: Why trouble yourself about the species till you have previously decided upon the genus? Why take pains to prove that an Ape is not a Newton when it is self-evident that he is not a man.

I have one request to make of my Reader, which is, that in judging these Poems he would decide by his own feelings genuinely, and not by reflection upon what will probably be the judgment of others. How common is it to hear a person say, “I myself do not object to this style of composition or this or that expression, but to such and such classes of people it will appear mean or ludicrous.” This mode of criticism so destructive of all sound unadulterated judgment is almost universal: I have therefore to request that the Reader would abide independently by his own feelings, and that if he finds himself affected he would not suffer such conjectures to interfere with his pleasure.

If an Author by any single composition has impressed us with respect for his talents, it is useful to consider this as affording a presumption, that, on other occasions where we have been displeased, he nevertheless may not have written ill or absurdly; and, further, to give him so much credit for this one composition as may induce us to review what has displeased us with more care than we should otherwise have bestowed upon it. This is not only an act of justice, but in our decisions upon poetry especially, may conduce in a high degree to the improvement of our own taste: for an accurate taste in Poetry and in all the other arts, as Sir Joshua Reynolds has observed, is an acquired talent, which can only be produced by thought and a long continued intercourse with the best models of composition. This is mentioned not with so ridiculous a purpose as to prevent the most inexperienced Reader from judging for himself, (I have already said that I wish him to judge for himself;) but merely to temper the rashness of decision, and to suggest that if Poetry be a subject on which much time has not been bestowed, the judgment may be erroneous, and that in many cases it necessarily will be so.

I know that nothing would have so effectually contributed to further the end which I have in view as to have shewn of what kind the pleasure is, and how the pleasure is produced which is confessedly produced by metrical composition essentially different from what I have here endeavoured to recommend; for the Reader will say that he has been pleased by such composition and what can I do more for him? The power of any art is limited and he will suspect that if I propose to furnish him with new friends it is only upon condition of his abandoning his old friends. Besides, as I have said, the Reader is himself conscious of the pleasure which he has received from such composition, composition to which he has peculiarly attached the endearing name of Poetry; and all men feel an habitual gratitude, and something of an honorable bigotry for the objects which have long continued to please them: we not only wish to be pleased, but to be pleased in that particular way in which we have been accustomed to be pleased. There is a host of arguments in these feelings; and I should be the less able to combat them successfully, as I am willing to allow, that, in order entirely to enjoy the Poetry which I am recommending, it would be necessary to give up much of what is ordinarily enjoyed. But would my limits have permitted me to point out how this pleasure is produced, I might have removed many obstacles, and assisted my Reader in perceiving that the powers of language are not so limited as he may suppose; and that it is possible that poetry may give other enjoyments, of a purer, more lasting, and more exquisite nature. But this part of my subject I have been obliged altogether to omit: as it has been less my present aim to prove that the interest excited by some other kinds of poetry is less vivid, and less worthy of the nobler powers of the mind, than to offer reasons for presuming, that, if the object which I have proposed to myself were adequately attained, a species of poetry would be produced, which is genuine poetry; in its nature well adapted to interest mankind permanently, and likewise important in the multiplicity and quality of its moral relations. From what has been said, and from a perusal of the Poems, the Reader will be able clearly to perceive the object which I have proposed to myself: he will determine how far I have attained this object; and, what is a much more important question, whether it be worth attaining; and upon the decision of these two questions will rest my claim to the approbation of the public.




1“Why, William, on that old grey stone,
2Thus for the length of half a day,
3Why, William, sit you thus alone,
4And dream your time away?”
5“Where are your books? that light bequeath’d
6To beings else forlorn and blind!
7Up! Up! and drink the spirit breath’d
8From dead men to their kind.”
9“You look round on your mother earth,
10As if she for no purpose bore you;
11As if you were her first-born birth,
12And none had lived before you!”
13One morning thus, by Esthwaite lake,
14When life was sweet, I knew not why,
15To me my good friend Matthew spake,
16And thus I made reply.
17“The eye it cannot chuse but see,
18We cannot bid the ear be still;
19Our bodies feel, where’er they be,
20Against, or with our will.”
21“Nor less I deem that there are powers
22Which of themselves our minds impress,
23That we can feed this mind of ours
24In a wise passiveness.”
25“Think you, mid all this mighty sum
26Of things for ever speaking,
27That nothing of itself will come,
28But we must still be seeking?”
29 “—Then ask not wherefore, here, alone,
30Conversing as I may,
31I sit upon this old grey stone,
32And dream my time away.”


An Evening Scene, on the same Subject.

1Up! up! my friend, and clear your looks,
2Why all this toil and trouble?
3Up! up! my friend, and quit your books,
4Or surely you’ll grow double.
5The sun, above the mountain’s head,
6A freshening lustre mellow
7Through all the long green fields has spread,
8His first sweet evening yellow.
9Books! ’tis dull and endless strife,
10Come, here the woodland linnet,
11How sweet his music; on my life
12There’s more of wisdom in it.
13And hark! how blithe the throstle sings!
14And he is no mean preacher;
15Come forth into the light of things,
16Let Nature be your teacher.
17She has a world of ready wealth,
18Our minds and hearts to bless—
19Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health,
20Truth breathed by chearfulness.
21One impulse from a vernal wood
22May teach you more of man;
23Of moral evil and of good,
24Than all the sages can.
25Sweet is the lore which nature brings;
26Our meddling intellect
27Mishapes the beauteous forms of things;
28—We murder to dissect.
29Enough of science and of art;
30Close up these barren leaves;
31Come forth, and bring with you a heart
32That watches and receives.



1 The little hedge-row birds
2That peck along the road, regard him not.
3He travels on, and in his face, his step,
4His gait, is one expression; every limb,
5His look and bending figure, all bespeak
6A man who does not move with pain, but moves
7With thought—He is insensibly subdued
8To settled quiet: he is one by whom
9All effort seems forgotten, one to whom
10Long patience has such mild composure given,
11That patience now doth seem a thing, of which
12He hath no need. He is by nature led
13To peace so perfect, that the young behold
14With envy, what the old man hardly feels.
15—I asked him whither he was bound, and what
16The object of his journey; he replied
17That he was going many miles to take
18A last leave of his son, a mariner,
19Who from a sea-fight had been brought to Falmouth,
20And there was lying in an hospital.




[When a Northern Indian, from sickness, is unable to continue his journey with his companions; he is left behind, covered over with Deer-skins, and is supplied with water, food, and fuel if the situation of the place will afford it. He is informed of the track which his companions intend to pursue, and if he is unable to follow, or overtake them, he perishes alone in the Desart; unless he should have the good fortune to fall in with some other Tribes of Indians. It is unnecessary to add that the females are equally, or still more, exposed to the same fate. See that very interesting work, Hearne’s Journey from Hudson’s Bay to the Northern Ocean. In the high Northern Latititudes, as the same writer informs us, when the Northern Lights vary their position in the air, they make a rustling and a crackling noise. This circumstance is alluded to in the first stanza of the following poem.]



1Before I see another day,
2Oh let my body die away!
3In sleep I heard the northern gleams;
4The stars they were among my dreams;
5In sleep did I behold the skies,
6I saw the crackling flashes drive;
7And yet they are upon my eyes,
8And yet I am alive.
9Before I see another day,
10Oh let my body die away!
11My fire is dead: it knew no pain;
12Yet is it dead, and I remain.
13All stiff with ice the ashes lie;
14And they are dead, and I will die.
15When I was well, I wished to live,
16For clothes, for warmth, for food, and fire;
17But they to me no joy can give,
18No pleasure now, and no desire.
19Then here contented will I lie;
20Alone I cannot fear to die.
21Alas! you might have dragged me on
22Another day, a single one!
23Too soon despair o’er me prevailed;
24Too soon my heartless spirit failed;
25When you were gone my limbs were stronger,
26And Oh how grievously I rue,
27That, afterwards, a little longer,
28My friends, I did not follow you!
29For strong and without pain I lay,
30My friends, when you were gone away.
31My child! they gave thee to another,
32A woman who was not thy mother.
33When from my arms my babe they took,
34On me how strangely did he look!
35Through his whole body something ran,
36A most strange something did I see;
37—As if he strove to be a man,
38That he might pull the sledge for me.
39And then he stretched his arms, how wild!
40Oh mercy! like a little child.
41My little joy! my little pride!
42In two days more I must have died.
43Then do not weep and grieve for me;
44I feel I must have died with thee.
45Oh wind that o’er my head art flying,
46The way my friends their course did bend,
47I should not feel the pain of dying,
48Could I with thee a message send.
49Too soon, my friends, you went away;
50For I had many things to say.
51I’ll follow you across the snow,
52You travel heavily and slow:
53In spite of all my weary pain,
54I’ll look upon your tents again.
55My fire is dead, and snowy white
56The water which beside it stood;
57The wolf has come to me to-night,
58And he has stolen away my food.
59For ever left alone am I,
60Then wherefore should I fear to die?
61My journey will be shortly run,
62I shall not see another sun,
63I cannot lift my limbs to know
64If they have any life or no.
65My poor forsaken child! if I
66For once could have thee close to me,
67With happy heart I then should die,
68And my last thoughts would happy be.
69I feel my body die away,
70I shall not see another day.



1In distant countries I have been,
2And yet I have not often seen
3 A healthy man, a man full grown,
4Weep in the public roads alone.
5But such a one, on English ground,
6And in the broad high-way, I met;
7Along the broad high-way he came,
8His cheeks with tears were wet.
9Sturdy he seemed, though he was sad;
10And in his arms a lamb he had.
11He saw me, and he turned aside,
12As if he wished himself to hide:
13Then with his coat he made essay
14To wipe those briny tears away.
15 I follow’d him, and said, “My friend
16What ails you? wherefore weep you so?”
17—“Shame on me, Sir! this lusty lamb,
18He makes my tears to flow.
19To-day I fetched him from the rock;
20He is the last of all my flock.”
21When I was young, a single man,
22And after youthful follies ran.
23Though little given to care and thought,
24Yet, so it was, a ewe I bought;
25And other sheep from her I raised,
26As healthy sheep as you might see,
27And then I married, and was rich
28As I could wish to be;
29Of sheep I numbered a full score,
30And every year increas’d my store.
31Year after year my stock it grew,
32And from this one, this single ewe,
33Full fifty comely sheep I raised,
34As sweet a flock as ever grazed!
35Upon the mountain did they feed;
36They throve, and we at home did thrive.
37—This lusty lamb of all my store
38Is all that is alive;
39And now I care not if we die,
40And perish all of poverty.
41Six children, Sir! had I to feed,
42Hard labour in a time of need!
43My pride was tamed, and in our grief,
44 I of the parish ask’d relief.
45They said I was a wealthy man;
46My sheep upon the mountain fed,
47And it was fit that thence I took
48Whereof to buy us bread:
49“Do this; how can we give to you,”
50They cried, “what to the poor is due?”
51 I sold a sheep as they had said,
52And bought my little children bread,
53And they were healthy with their food;
54For me it never did me good.
55 A woeful time it was for me,
56To see the end of all my gains,
57The pretty flock which I had reared
58With all my care and pains,
59To see it melt like snow away!
60For me it was a woeful day.
61Another still! and still another!
62 A little lamb, and then its mother!
63It was a vein that never stopp’d,
64Like blood-drops from my heart they dropp’d.
65Till thirty were not left alive
66They dwindled, dwindled, one by one,
67And I may say that many a time
68 I wished they all were gone:
69They dwindled one by one away;
70For me it was a woeful day.
71To wicked deeds I was inclined,
72And wicked fancies cross’d my mind,
73And every man I chanc’d to see,
74 I thought he knew some ill of me.
75No peace, no comfort could I find,
76No ease, within doors or without,
77And crazily, and wearily
78 I went my work about.
79Oft-times I thought to run away;
80For me it was a woeful day.
81Sir! ’twas a precious flock to me,
82As dear as my own children be;
83For daily with my growing store
84 I loved my children more and more.
85Alas! it was an evil time;
86God cursed me in my sore distress,
87 I prayed, yet every day I thought
88 I loved my children less;
89And every week, and every day,
90My flock, it seemed to melt away.
91They dwindled. Sir, sad sight to see!
92From ten to five, from five to three,
93 A lamb, a weather, and a ewe;
94And then at last, from three to two;
95And of my fifty, yesterday
96 I had but only one,
97And here it lies upon my arm,
98Alas! and I have none;
99To-day I fetched it from the rock;
100It is the last of all my flock.


Left upon a seat in a YEW-TREE, which stands near the

Lake of ESTHWAITE, on a desolate part of the shore,

yet commanding a beautiful prospect.

1—Nay, Traveller! rest. This lonely yew-tree stands
2Far from all human dwelling: what if here
3No sparkling rivulet spread the verdant herb;
4What if these barren boughs the bee not loves;
5Yet, if the wind breathe soft, the curling waves,
6That break against the shore, shall lull thy mind
7By one soft impulse saved from vacancy.
8——————————————Who he was
9That piled these stones, and with the mossy sod
10First covered o’er and taught this aged tree
11With its dark arms to form a circling bower,
12 I well remember.—He was one who owned
13No common soul. In youth by science nursed
14And led by nature into a wild scene
15Of lofty hopes, he to the world went forth,
16 A favored being, knowing no desire
17Which genius did not hallow, ’gainst the taint
18Of dissolute tongues, and jealousy, and hate
19And scorn, against all enemies prepared.
20All but neglect. The world, for so it thought,
21Owed him no service: he was like a plant
22Fair to the sun, the darling of the winds,
23But hung with fruit which no one, that passed by,
24Regarded, and, his spirit damped at once,
25With indignation did he turn away
26And with the food of pride sustained his soul
27In solitude.—Stranger! these gloomy boughs
28Had charms for him; and here he loved to sit,
29His only visitants a straggling sheep,
30The stone-chat, or the glancing sand-piper;
31And on these barren rocks, with juniper,
32And heath, and thistle, thinly sprinkled o’er,
33Fixing his downcast eye, he many an hour
34 A morbid pleasure nourished, tracing here
35An emblem of his own unfruitful life:
36And lifting up his head, he then would gaze
37On the more distant scene; how lovely ’tis
38Thou seest, and he would gaze till it became
39Far lovelier, and his heart could not sustain
40The beauty still more beauteous. Nor, that time
41When Nature had subdued him to herself
42Would he forget those beings, to whose minds,
43Warm from the labours of benevolence,
44The world, and man himself, appeared a scene
45Of kindred loveliness: then he would sigh
46With mournful joy, to think that others felt
47What he must never feel: and so, lost man!
48On visionary views would fancy feed,
49Till his eye streamed with tears. In this deep vale
50He died, this seat his only monument.
51If thou be one whose heart the holy forms
52Of young imagination have kept pure,
53Stranger! henceforth be warned; and know, that pride,
54Howe’er disguised in its own majesty,
55Is littleness; that he, who feels contempt
56For any living thing, hath faculties
57Which he has never used; that thought with him
58Is in its infancy. The man, whose eye
59Is ever on himself, doth look on one,
60The least of nature’s works, one who might move
61The wise man to that scorn which wisdom holds
62Unlawful, ever. O, be wiser thou!
63Instructed that true knowledge leads to love,
64True dignity abides with him alone
65Who, in the silent hour of inward thought,
66Can still suspect, and still revere himself,
67In lowliness of heart.



A Narration in Dramatic Blank Verse.

1But that entrance, Mother!


2Can no one hear? It is a perilous tale!


3No one.


4 My husband’s father told it me,
5Poor old Leoni!—Angels rest his soul!
6He was a woodman, and could fell and saw
7With lusty arm. You know that huge round beam
8Which props the hanging wall of the old chapel?
9Beneath that tree, while yet it was a tree
10He found a baby wrapt in mosses, lined
11With thistle beards, and such small locks of wool
12As hang on brambles. Well, he brought him home,
13And reared him at the then Lord Velez’ cost.
14And so the babe grew up a pretty boy,
15 A pretty boy, but most unteachable—
16And never learnt a prayer, nor told a bead.
17But knew the names of birds, and mocked their notes,
18And whistled, as he were a bird himself:
19And all the autumn ’twas his only play
20To get the seeds of wild flowers, and to plant them
21With earth and water, on the stumps of trees.
22 A Friar, who gathered simples in the wood,
23 A grey-haired man—he loved this little boy,
24The boy loved him—and, when the Friar taught him,
25He soon could write with the pen: and from that time,
26Lived chiefly at the Convent or the Castle.
27So he became a very learned youth.
28But Oh! poor wretch!—he read, and read, and read,
29Till his brain turned—and ere his twentieth year,
30He had unlawful thoughts of many things:
31And though he prayed, he never loved to pray
32With holy men, nor in a holy place—
33But yet his speech, it was so soft and sweet,
34The late Lord Velez ne’er was wearied with him.
35And once, as by the north side of the Chapel
36They stood together, chained in deep discourse,
37The earth heaved under them with such a groan,
38That the wall tottered, and had well-nigh fallen
39Right on their heads. My Lord was sorely frightened;
40 A fever seized him, and he made confession
41Of all the heretical and lawless talk
42Which brought this judgment: so the youth was seized
43And cast into that cell. My husband’s father
44Sobbed like a child—it almost broke his heart:
45And once as he was working in the cellar,
46He heard a voice distinctly; ’twas the youth’s
47Who sang a doleful song about green fields,
48How sweet it were on lake or wild savannah,
49To hunt for food, and be a naked man,
50And wander up and down at liberty.
51Leoni doted on the youth, and now
52His love grew desperate; and defying death,
53He made that cunning entrance I described:
54And the young man escaped.


55 ’Tis a sweet tale.
56And what became of him?


57 He went on ship-board
58With those bold voyagers, who made discovery
59Of golden lands. Leoni’s younger brother
60Went likewise, and when he returned to Spain,
61He told Leoni, that the poor mad youth,
62Soon after they arrived in that new world,
63In spite of his dissuasion, seized a boat,
64And all alone, set sail by silent moonlight
65Up a great river, great as any sea,
66And ne’er was heard of more: but ’tis supposed,
67He lived and died among the savage men.



1Oh! what’s the matter? what’s the matter?
2What is’t that ails young Harry Gill?
3That evermore his teeth they chatter,
4Chatter, chatter, chatter still.
5Of waistcoats Harry has no lack,
6Good duffle grey, and flannel fine;
7He has a blanket on his back,
8And coats enough to smother nine.
9In March, December, and in July,
10’Tis all the same with Harry Gill;
11The neighbours tell, and tell you truly,
12His teeth they chatter, chatter still.
13At night, at morning, and at noon,
14’Tis all the same with Harry Gill;
15Beneath the sun, beneath the moon,
16His teeth they chatter, chatter still.
17Young Harry was a lusty drover,
18And who so stout of limb as he?
19His cheeks were red as ruddy clover,
20His voice was like the voice of three.
21Auld Goody Blake was old and poor,
22Ill fed she was, and thinly clad;
23And any man who pass’d her door,
24Might see how poor a hut she had.
25All day she spun in her poor dwelling,
26And then her three hours’ work at night!
27Alas! ’twas hardly worth the telling,
28It would not pay for candle-light.
29—This woman dwelt in Dorsetshire,
30Her hut was on a cold hill-side,
31And in that country coals are dear,
32For they come far by wind and tide.
33By the same fire to boil their pottage,
34Two poor old dames as I have known,
35Will often live in one small cottage,
36But she, poor woman, dwelt alone.
37’Twas well enough when summer came,
38The long, warm, lightsome summer-day,
39Then at her door the canty dame
40Would sit, as any linnet gay.
41But when the ice our streams did fetter,
42Oh! then how her old bones would shake!
43You would have said, if you had met her,
44’Twas a hard time for Goody Blake.
45Her evenings then were dull and dead;
46Sad case it was, as you may think,
47For very cold to go to bed,
48And then for cold not sleep a wink.
49Oh joy for her! whene’er in winter
50The winds at night had made a rout,
51And scatter’d many a lusty splinter,
52And many a rotten bough about.
53Yet never had she, well or sick,
54As every man who knew her says,
55 A pile before hand, wood or stick,
56Enough to warm her for three days.
57Now when the frost was past enduring,
58And made her poor old bones to ache,
59Could any thing be more alluring,
60Than an old hedge to Goody Blake?
61And now and then, it must be said,
62When her old bones were cold and chill,
63She left her fire, or left her bed,
64To seek the hedge of Harry Gill.
65Now Harry he had long suspected
66This trespass of old Goody Blake,
67And vow’d that she should be detected,
68And he on her would vengeance take.
69And oft from his warm fire he’d go,
70And to the fields his road would take,
71And there, at night, in frost and snow,
72He watch’d to seize old Goody Blake.
73And once, behind a rick of barley,
74Thus looking out did Harry stand;
75The moon was full and shining clearly,
76And crisp with frost the stubble land.
77—He hears a noise—he’s all awake—
78Again?—on tip-toe down the hill
79He softly creeps—’Tis Goody Blake,
80She’s at the hedge of Harry Gill.
81Right glad was he when he beheld her;
82Stick after stick did Goody pull,
83He stood behind a bush of elder,
84Till she had filled her apron full.
85When with her load she turned about,
86The bye-road back again to take,
87He started forward with a shout,
88And sprang upon poor Goody Blake.
89And fiercely by the arm he took her,
90And by the arm he held her fast,
91And fiercely by the arm he shook her,
92And cried, “I’ve caught you then at last!”
93Then Goody, who had nothing said,
94Her bundle from her lap let fall;
95And kneeling on the sticks, she pray’d
96To God that is the judge of all.
97She pray’d, her wither’d hand uprearing,
98While Harry held her by the arm—
99“God! who art never out of hearing,
100 O may he never more be warm!”
101The cold, cold moon above her head,
102Thus on her knees did Goody pray,
103Young Harry heard what she had said;
104And icy-cold he turned away.
105He went complaining all the morrow
106That he was cold and very chill:
107His face was gloom, his heart was sorrow,
108Alas! that day for Harry Gill!
109That day he wore a riding-coat,
110But not a whit the warmer he:
111Another was on Thursday brought,
112And ere the Sabbath he had three.
113’Twas all in vain, a useless matter,
114And blankets were about him pinn’d;
115Yet still his jaws and teeth they clatter,
116Like a loose casement in the wind.
117And Harry’s flesh it fell away;
118And all who see him say ’tis plain,
119That, live as long as live he may,
120He never will be warm again.
121No word to any man he utters,
122 A-bed or up, to young or old;
123But ever to himself he mutters,
124“Poor Harry Gill is very cold.”
125 A-bed or up, by night or day;
126His teeth they chatter, chatter still.
127Now think, ye farmers all, I pray,
128Of Goody Blake and Harry Gill.



1There is a thorn; it looks so old,
2In truth you’d find it hard to say,
3How it could ever have been young,
4It looks so old and grey.
5Not higher than a two years’ child
6It stands erect this aged thorn;
7No leaves it has, no thorny points;
8It is a mass of knotted joints,
9 A wretched thing forlorn.
10It stands erect, and like a stone
11With lichens it is overgrown.


12Like rock or stone, it is o’ergrown
13With lichens to the very top,
14And hung with heavy tufts of moss,
15 A melancholy crop:
16Up from the earth these mosses creep,
17And this poor thorn! they clasp it round
18So close, you’d say that they were bent
19With plain and manifest intent,
20To drag it to the ground;
21And all had join’d in one endeavour
22To bury this poor thorn for ever.


23High on a mountain’s highest ridge,
24Where oft the stormy winter gale
25Cuts like a scythe, while through the clouds
26It sweeps from vale to vale;
27Not five yards from the mountain-path,
28This thorn you on your left espy;
29And to the left, three yards beyond,
30You see a little muddy pond
31Of water, never dry;
32 I’ve measured it from side to side:
33’Tis three feet long, and two feet wide.


34And close beside this aged thorn,
35There is a fresh and lovely sight,
36 A beauteous heap, a hill of moss,
37Just half a foot in height.
38All lovely colours there you see,
39All colours that were ever seen,
40And mossy network too is there,
41As if by hand of lady fair
42The work had woven been,
43And cups, the darlings of the eye,
44So deep is their vermillion dye.


45Ah me! what lovely tints are there!
46Of olive green and scarlet bright,
47In spikes, in branches, and in stars,
48Green, red, and pearly white.
49This heap of earth o’ergrown with moss,
50Which close beside the thorn you see,
51So fresh in all its beauteous dyes,
52Is like an infant’s grave in size
53As like as like can be:
54But never, never any where,
55An infant’s grave was half so fair.


56Now would you see this aged thorn,
57This pond and beauteous hill of moss,
58You must take care and chuse your time
59The mountain when to cross.
60For oft there sits, between the heap
61That’s like an infant’s grave in size
62And that same pond of which I spoke,
63 A woman in a scarlet cloak,
64And to herself she cries,
65“Oh misery! oh misery!
66Oh woe is me! oh misery!”


67At all times of the day and night
68This wretched woman thither goes,
69And she is known to every star,
70And every wind that blows;
71And there beside the thorn she sits
72When the blue day-light’s in the skies,
73And when the whirlwind’s on the hill,
74Or frosty air is keen and still,
75And to herself she cries,
76“Oh misery! oh misery!
77Oh woe is me! oh misery;”


78“Now wherefore thus, by day and night,
79In rain, in tempest, and in snow
80Thus to the dreary mountain-top
81Does this poor woman go?
82And why sits she beside the thorn
83When the blue day-light’s in the sky,
84Or when the whirlwind’s on the hill,
85Or frosty air is keen and still,
86And wherefore does she cry?—
87Oh wherefore? wherefore? tell me why
88Does she repeat that doleful cry?”


89 I cannot tell; I wish I could;
90For the true reason no one knows,
91But if you’d gladly view the spot,
92The spot to which she goes;
93The heap that’s like an infant’s grave,
94The pond—and thorn, so old and grey.
95Pass by her door—tis seldom shut—
96And if you see her in her hut,
97Then to the spot away!—
98 I never heard of such as dare
99Approach the spot when she is there.


100“But wherefore to the mountain-top,
101Can this unhappy woman go,
102Whatever star is in the skies,
103Whatever wind may blow?”
104Nay rack your brain—’tis all in vain,
105 I’ll tell you every thing I know;
106But to the thorn and to the pond
107Which is a little step beyond,
108 I wish that you would go:
109Perhaps when you are at the place
110You something of her tale may trace.


111 I’ll give you the best help I can:
112Before you up the mountain go,
113Up to the dreary mountain-top,
114 I’ll tell you all I know.
115’Tis now some two and twenty years,
116Since she (her name is Martha Ray)
117Gave with a maiden’s true good will
118Her company to Stephen Hill;
119And she was blithe and gay,
120And she was happy, happy still
121Whene’er she thought of Stephen Hill.


122And they had fix’d the wedding-day,
123The morning that must wed them both;
124But Stephen to another maid
125Had sworn another oath;
126And with this other maid to church
127Unthinking Stephen went—
128Poor Martha! on that woful day
129 A cruel, cruel fire, they say,
130Into her bones was sent:
131It dried her body like a cinder,
132And almost turn’d her brain to tinder.


133They say, full six months after this,
134While yet the summer leaves were green,
135She to the mountain-top would go,
136And there was often seen.
137’Tis said, a child was in her womb,
138As now to any eye was plain;
139She was with child, and she was mad,
140Yet often she was sober sad
141From her exceeding pain.
142Oh me! ten thousand times I’d rather,
143That he had died, that cruel father!


144Sad case for such a brain to hold
145Communion with a stirring child!
146Sad case, as you may think, for one
147Who had a brain so wild!
148Last Christmas when we talked of this,
149Old Farmer Simpson did maintain,
150That in her womb the infant wrought
151About its mother’s heart, and brought
152Her senses back again:
153And when at last her time drew near,
154Her looks were calm, her senses clear.


155No more I know, I wish I did,
156And I would tell it all to you;
157For what became of this poor child
158There’s none that ever knew:
159And if a child was born or no,
160There’s no one that could ever tell
161And if ’twas born alive or dead,
162There’s no one knows, as I have said,
163But some remember well,
164That Martha Ray about this time
165Would up the mountain often climb.


166And all that winter, when at night
167The wind blew from the mountain-peak,
168’Twas worth your while, though in the dark,
169The church-yard path to seek:
170For many a time and oft were heard
171Cries coming from the mountain-head,
172Some plainly living voices were,
173And others, I’ve heard many swear,
174Were voices of the dead:
175 I cannot think, whate’er they say,
176They had to do with Martha Ray.


177But that she goes to this old thorn,
178The thorn which I’ve described to you,
179And there sits in a scarlet cloak,
180 I will be sworn is true.
181For one day with my telescope,
182To view the ocean wide and bright,
183When to this country first I came,
184Ere I had heard of Martha’s name,
185 I climbed the mountain’s height:
186 A storm came on, and I could see
187No object higher than my knee.


188’Twas mist and rain, and storm and rain,
189No screen, no fence could I discover,
190And then the wind! in faith, it was
191 A wind full ten times over.
192Hooked around, I thought I saw
193 A jutting crag, and off I ran,
194Head-foremost, through the driving rain,
195The shelter of the crag to gain,
196And, as I am a man,
197Instead of jutting crag, I found
198 A woman seated on the ground.


199 I did not speak—I saw her face,
200In truth it was enough for me;
201 I turned about and heard her cry,
202“O misery! O misery!”
203And there she sits, until the moon
204Through half the clear blue sky will go,
205And when the little breezes make
206The waters of the pond to shake,
207As all the country know
208She shudders, and you hear her cry,
209“Oh misery! oh misery!”


210“But what’s the thorn? and what’s the pond?
211And what’s the hill of moss to her?
212And what’s the creeping breeze that comes
213The little pond to stir?”
214 I cannot tell; but some will say
215She hanged her baby on the tree,
216Some say she drowned it in the pond,
217Which is a little step beyond,
218But all and each agree,
219The little babe was buried there,
220Beneath that hill of moss so fair.


221 I’ve heard, the moss is spotted red
222With drops of that poor infant’s blood;
223But kill a new-born infant thus!
224 I do not think she could.
225Some say, if to the pond you go,
226And fix on it a steady view,
227The shadow of a babe you trace,
228 A baby and a baby’s face,
229And that it looks at you;
230Whene’er you look on it, ’tis plain
231The baby looks at you again.


232And some had sworn an oath that she
233Should be to public justice brought;
234And for the little infant’s bones
235With spades they would have sought.
236But then the beauteous bill of moss
237Before their eyes began to stir;
238And for full fifty yards around,
239The grass it shook upon the ground;
240But all do still aver
241The little babe is buried there.
242Beneath that hill of moss so fair.


243 I cannot tell how this may be,
244But plain it is, the thorn is bound
245With heavy tufts of moss, that strive
246To drag it to the ground.
247And this I know, full many a time,
248When she was on the mountain high,
249By day, and in the silent night;
250When all the stars shone clear and bright,
251That I have heard her cry,
252“Oh misery! oh misery!
253 O woe is me! oh misery!”


—This Poem ought to have been preceded by an introductory Poem, which I have been prevented from writing by never having felt myself in a mood when it was probable that I should write it well.—The character which I have here introduced speaking is sufficiently common. The Reader will perhaps have a general notion of it, if he has ever known a man, a Captain of a small trading vessel for example, who being past the middle age of life, had retired upon an annuity or small independent income to some village or country town of which he was not a native, or in which he had not been accustomed to live. Such men having little to do become credulous and talkative from indolence; and from the same cause, and other predisposing causes by which it is probable that such men may have been affected, they are prone to superstition. On which account it appeared to me proper to select a character like this to exhibit some of the general laws by which superstition acts upon the mind. Superstitious men are almost always men of slow faculties and deep feelings; their minds are not loose but adhesive; they have a reasonable share of imagination, by which word I mean the faculty which produces impressive effects out of simple elements; but they are utterly destitute of fancy, the power by which pleasure and surprize are excited by sudden varieties of situation and by accumulated imagery.

It was my wish in this poem to shew the manner in which such men cleave to the same ideas; and to follow the turns of passion, always different, yet not palpably different, by which their conversation is swayed. I had two objects to attain; first, to represent a picture which should not be unimpressive yet consistent with the character that should describe it, secondly, while I adhered to the style in which such persons describe, to take care that words, which in their minds are impregnated with passion, should likewise convey passion to Readers who are not accustomed to sympathize with men feeling in that manner or using such language. It seemed to me that this might be done by calling in the assistance of Lyrical and rapid Metre. It was necessary that the Poem, to be natural, should in reality move slowly; yet I hoped, that, by the aid of the metre, to those who should at all enter into the spirit of the Poem, it would appear to move quickly. The Reader will have the kindness to excuse this note as I am sensible that an introductory Poem is necessary to give this Poem its full effect.

Upon this occasion I will request permission to add a few words closely connected with THE THORN and many other Poems in these Volumes. There is a numerous class of readers who imagine that the same words cannot be repeated without tautology: this is a great error: virtual tautology is much oftener produced by using different words when the meaning is exactly the same. Words, a Poet’s words more particularly, ought to be weighed in the balance of feeling and not measured by the space which they occupy upon paper. For the Reader cannot be too often reminded that Poetry is passion: it is the history or science of feelings: now every man must know that an attempt is rarely made to communicate impassioned feelings without something of an accompanying consciousness of the inadequateness of our own powers, or the deficiencies of language. During such efforts there will be a craving in the mind, and as long as it is unsatisfied the Speaker will cling to the same words, or words of the same character. There are also various other reasons why repetition and apparent tautology are frequently beauties of the highest kind. Among the chief of these reasons is the interest which the mind attaches to words, not only as symbols of the passion, but as things, active and efficient, which are of themselves part of the passion. And further, from a spirit of fondness, exultation, and gratitude, the mind luxuriates in the repetition of words which appear successfully to communicate its feelings. The truth of these remarks might be shewn by innumerable passages from the Bible and from the impassioned poetry of every nation.

“Awake, awake Deborah: awake, awake, utter a song:”

“Arise Barak, and lead thy captivity captive, thou Son of Abinoam.”

“At her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay down: at her feet be bowed, he fell; where he bowed there he fell down dead.”

“Why is his Chariot so long in coming? Why tarry the Wheels of his Chariot?”—Judges, Chap. 5th. Verses 12th, 27th, and part of 28th.

—See also the whole of that tumultuous and wonderful Poem.


1 A simple child, dear brother Jim,
2That lightly draws its breath,
3And feels its life in every limb,
4What should it know of death?
5 I met a little cottage girl,
6She was eight years old, she said;
7Her hair was thick with many a curl
8That cluster’d round her head.
9She had a rustic, woodland air,
10And she was wildly clad;
11Her eyes were fair, and very fair,
12—Her beauty made me glad.
13“Sisters and brothers, little maid,
14How many may you be?”
15“How many? seven in all,” she said,
16And wondering looked at me.
17“And where are they, I pray you tell?”
18She answered, “Seven are we,
19And two of us at Conway dwell,
20And two are gone to sea.”
21“Two of us in the church-yard lie,
22My sister and my brother,
23And in the church-yard cottage, I
24Dwell near them with my mother.”
25“You say that two at Conway dwell,
26And two are gone to sea,
27Yet you are seven; I pray you tell
28Sweet Maid, how this may be?”
29Then did the little Maid reply,
30“Seven boys and girls are we;
31Two of us in the church-yard lie,
32Beneath the church-yard tree.”
33“You run about, my little maid,
34Your limbs they are alive;
35If two are in the church-yard laid,
36Then ye are only five.”
37“Their graves are green, they may be seen,”
38The little Maid replied,
39“Twelve steps or more from my mother’s door,
40And they are side by side.”
41“My stockings there I often knit,
42My ’kerchief there I hem;
43And there upon the ground I sit—
44 I sit and sing to them.”
45“And often after sunset, Sir,
46When it is light and fair,
47 I take my little porringer,
48And eat my supper there.”
49“The first that died was little Jane;
50In bed she moaning lay,
51Till God released her of her pain,
52And then she went away.”
53“So in the church-yard she was laid,
54And all the summer dry,
55Together round her grave we played,
56My brother John and I.”
57“And when the ground was white with snow,
58And I could run and slide,
59My brother John was forced to go,
60And he lies by her side.”
61“How many are you then,” said I,
62“If they two are in Heaven?”
63The little Maiden did reply,
64“O Master! we are seven.”
65“But they are dead; those two are dead!
66Their spirits are in heaven!”
67’Twas throwing words away; for still
68The little Maid would have her will,
69And said, “Nay, we are seven!”


Shewing how the practice of Lying may be taught.

1 I have a boy of five years old,
2His face is fair and fresh to see;
3His limbs are cast in beauty’s mould,
4And dearly he loves me.
5One morn we stroll’d on our dry walk,
6Our quiet house all full in view,
7And held such intermitted talk
8As we are wont to do.
9My thoughts on former pleasures ran;
10 I thought of Kilve’s delightful shore,
11My pleasant home, when Spring began,
12 A long, long year before.
13 A day it was when I could bear
14To think, and think, and think again;
15With so much happiness to spare,
16 I could not feel a pain.
17My boy was by my side, so slim
18And graceful in his rustic dress!
19And oftentimes I talked to him
20In very idleness.
21The young lambs ran a pretty race;
22The morning sun shone bright and warm;
23“Kilve,” said I, “was a pleasant place,
24And so is Liswyn farm.”
25“My little boy, which like you more,”
26 I said and took him by the arm—
27“Our home by Kilve’s delightful shore,
28Or here at Liswyn farm?”
29“And tell me, had you rather be,”
30 I said and held-him by the arm,
31“At Kilve’s smooth shore by the green sea,
32Or here at Liswyn farm?”
33In careless mood he looked at me,
34While still I held him by the arm,
35And said, “At Kilve I’d rather be
36Than here at Liswyn farm.”
37“Now, little Edward, say why so;
38My little Edward, tell me why;”
39“I cannot tell, I do not know.”
40“Why this is strange,” said I.
41“For, here are woods and green hills warm:
42There surely must some reason be
43Why you would change sweet Liswyn farm,
44For Kilve by the green sea.”
45At this, my boy hung down his head,
46He blush’d with shame, nor made reply;
47And five times to the child I said,
48“Why, Edward, tell me, why?”
49His head he raised—there was in sight,
50It caught his eye, he saw it plain—
51Upon the house-top, glittering bright,
52 A broad and gilded vane.
53Then did the boy his tongue unlock,
54And thus to me he made reply;
55“At Kilve there was no weather-cock,
56And that’s the reason why.”
57Oh dearest, dearest boy! my heart
58For better lore would seldom yearn
59Could I but teach the hundredth part
60Of what from thee I learn.


Written at a small distance from my House, and sent by

my little boy to the person to whom they are addressed.

1It is the first mild day of March:
2Each minute sweeter than before,
3The red-breast sings from the tall larch
4That stands beside our door.
5There is a blessing in the air,
6Which seems a sense of joy to yield
7To the bare trees, and mountains bare,
8And grass in the green field.
9My Sister! (’tis a wish of mine)
10Now that our morning meal is done,
11Make haste, your morning task resign;
12Come forth and feel the sun.
13Edward will come with you, and pray,
14Put on with speed your woodland dress,
15And bring no book, for this one day
16We’ll give to idleness.
17No joyless forms shall regulate
18Our living Calendar:
19We from to-day, my friend, will date
20The opening of the year.
21Love, now an universal birth,
22From heart to heart is stealing,
23From earth to man, from man to earth,
24—It is the hour of feeling.
25One moment now may give us more
26Than fifty years of reason;
27Our minds shall drink at every pore
28The spirit of the season.
29Some silent laws our hearts may make,
30Which they shall long obey;
31We for the year to come may take
32Our temper from to-day.
33And from the blessed power that rolls
34About, below, above;
35We’ll frame the measure of our souls,
36They shall be tuned to love.
37Then come, my sister! come, I pray,
38With speed put on your woodland dress,
39And bring no book; for this one day
40We’ll give to idleness.


1By Derwent’s side my Father’s cottage stood,
2(The Woman thus her artless story told)
3One field, a flock, and what the neighbouring flood
4Supplied, to him were more than mines of gold.
5Light was my sleep; my days in transport roll’d:
6With thoughtless joy I stretch’d along the shore
7My father’s nets, or from the mountain fold
8Saw on the distant lake his twinkling oar
9Or watch’d his lazy boat still less’ning more and more
10My father was a good and pious man,
11An honest man by honest parents bred,
12And I believe that, soon as I began
13To lisp, he made me kneel beside my bed,
14And in his hearing there my prayers I said:
15And afterwards, by my good father taught,
16 I read, and loved the books in which I read;
17For books in every neighbouring house I sought,
18And nothing to my mind a sweeter pleasure brought.
19Can I forget what charms did once adorn
20My garden, stored with pease, and mint, and thyme,
21And rose and lilly for the sabbath morn?
22The sabbath bells, and their delightful chime;
23The gambols and wild freaks at shearing time;
24My hen’s rich nest through long grass scarce espied;
25The cowslip-gathering at May’s dewy prime;
26The swans, that, when I sought the water-side,
27From far to meet me came, spreading their snowy pride.
28The staff I yet remember which upbore
29The bending body of my active sire;
30His seat beneath the honeyed sycamore
31When the bees hummed, and chair by winter fire;
32When market-morning came, the neat attire
33With which, though bent on haste, myself I deck’d;
34My watchful dog, whose starts of furious ire,
35When stranger passed, so often I have check’d;
36The red-breast known for years, which at my casement peck’d.
37The suns of twenty summers danced along,—
38Ah! little marked, how fast they rolled away:
39Then rose a stately hall our woods among,
40And cottage after cottage owned its sway.
41No joy to see a neighbouring house, or stray
42Through pastures not his own, the master took;
43My Father dared his greedy wish gainsay;
44He loved his old hereditary nook,
45And ill could I the thought of such sad parting brook.
46But when he had refused the proffered gold,
47To cruel injuries he became a prey,
48Sore traversed in whate’er he bought and sold:
49His troubles grew upon him day by day,
50Till all his substance fell into decay.
51His little range of water was denied; [3]
52All but the bed where his old body lay.
53All, all was seized, and weeping, side by side,
54We sought a home where we uninjured might abide.
[Footnote 3: Several of the Lakes in the north of England are let out to different Fishermen, in parcels marked out by imaginary lines drawn from rock to rock.]
55Can I forget that miserable hour,
56When from the last hill-top, my sire surveyed,
57Peering above the trees, the steeple tower
58That on his marriage-day sweet music made?
59Till then he hoped his bones might there be laid,
60Close by my mother in their native bowers:
61Bidding me trust in God, he stood and prayed,—
62 I could not pray:—through tears that fell in showers,
63Glimmer’d our dear-loved home, alas! no longer ours!
64There was a youth whom I had loved so long.
65That when I loved him not I cannot say.
66’Mid the green mountains many and many a song
67We two had sung, like gladsome birds in May.
68When we began to tire of childish play
69We seemed still more and more to prize each other;
70We talked of marriage and our marriage day;
71And I in truth did love him like a brother,
72For never could I hope to meet with such another.
73His father said, that to a distant town
74He must repair, to ply the artist’s trade.
75What tears of bitter grief till then unknown?
76What tender vows our last sad kiss delayed!
77To him we turned:—we had no other aid.
78Like one revived, upon his neck I wept,
79And her whom he had loved in joy, he said
80He well could love in grief: his faith he kept;
81And in a quiet home once more my father slept.
82Four years each day with daily bread was blest,
83By constant toil and constant prayer supplied.
84Three lovely infants lay upon my breast;
85And often, viewing their sweet smiles, I sighed,
86And knew not why. My happy father died
87When sad distress reduced the childrens’ meal:
88Thrice happy! that from him the grave did hide
89The empty loom, cold hearth, and silent wheel,
90And tears that flowed for ills which patience could not heal.
91’Twas a hard change, an evil time was come;
92We had no hope, and no relief could gain.
93But soon, with proud parade, the noisy drum
94Beat round, to sweep the streets of want and pain.
95My husband’s arms now only served to strain
96Me and his children hungering in his view:
97In such dismay my prayers and tears were vain:
98To join those miserable men he flew;
99And now to the sea-coast, with numbers more, we drew.
100There foul neglect for months and months we bore,
101Nor yet the crowded fleet its anchor stirred.
102Green fields before us and our native shore,
103By fever, from polluted air incurred,
104Ravage was made, for which no knell was heard.
105Fondly we wished, and wished away, nor knew,
106’Mid that long sickness, and those hopes deferr’d,
107That happier days we never more must view:
108The parting signal streamed, at last the land withdrew.
109But from delay the summer calms were past.
110On as we drove, the equinoctial deep
111Ran mountains-high before the howling blast.
112We gazed with terror on the gloomy sleep
113Of them that perished in the whirlwind’s sweep,
114Untaught that soon such anguish must ensue,
115Our hopes such harvest of affliction reap,
116That we the mercy of the waves should rue.
117We readied the western world, a poor, devoted crew.
118Oh! dreadful price of being to resign
119All that is dear in being! better far
120In Want’s most lonely cave till death to pine,
121Unseen, unheard, unwatched by any star;
122Or in the streets and walks where proud men are,
123Better our dying bodies to obtrude,
124Than dog-like, wading at the heels of war,
125Protract a curst existence, with the brood
126That lap (their very nourishment!) their brother’s blood.
127The pains and plagues that on our heads came down;
128Disease and famine, agony and fear,
129In wood or wilderness, in camp or town,
130It would thy brain unsettle even to hear.
131All perished—all, in one remorseless year,
132Husband and children! one by one, by sword
133And ravenous plague, all perished: every tear
134Dried up, despairing, desolate, on board
135 A British ship I waked, as from a trance restored.
136Peaceful as some immeasurable plain
137By the first beams of dawning light impress’d;
138In the calm sunshine slept the glittering main,
139The very ocean has its hour of rest,
140That comes not to the human mourner’s breast.
141Remote from man, and storms of mortal care,
142 A heavenly silence did the waves invest:
143 I looked and looked along the silent air,
144Until it seemed to bring a joy to my despair.
145Ah! how unlike those late terrific sleeps!
146And groans, that rage of racking famine spoke:
147The unburied dead that lay in festering heaps!
148The breathing pestilence that rose like smoke!
149The shriek that from the distant battle broke!
150The mine’s dire earthquake, and the pallid host
151Driven by the bomb’s incessant thunder-stroke
152To loathsome vaults, where heart-sick anguish toss’d,
153Hope died, and fear itself in agony was lost!
154Yet does that burst of woe congeal my frame,
155When the dark streets appeared to heave and gape,
156While like a sea the storming army came,
157And Fire from hell reared his gigantic shape,
158And Murder, by the ghastly gleam, and Rape
159Seized their joint prey, the mother and the child!
160But from these crazing thoughts my brain, escape!
161—For weeks the balmy air breathed soft and mild,
162And on the gliding vessel Heaven and Ocean smiled.
163Some mighty gulph of separation past,
164 I seemed transported to another world:—
165 A thought resigned with pain, when from the mast
166The impatient mariner the sail unfurl’d,
167And whistling, called the wind that hardly curled
168The silent sea. From the sweet thoughts of home,
169And from all hope I was forever hurled.
170For me—farthest from earthly port to roam
171Was best, could I but shun the spot where man might come.
172And oft, robb’d of my perfect mind, I thought
173At last my feet a resting-place had found:
174Here will I weep in peace, (so fancy wrought,)
175Roaming the illimitable waters round;
176Here watch, of every human friend disowned,
177All day, my ready tomb the ocean-flood—
178To break my dream the vessel reached its bound:
179And homeless near a thousand homes I stood,
180And near a thousand tables pined, and wanted food.
181By grief enfeebled was I turned adrift,
182Helpless as sailor cast on desert rock;
183Nor morsel to my mouth that day did lift,
184Nor dared my hand at any door to knock.
185 I lay, where with his drowsy mates, the cock
186From the cross timber of an out-house hung;
187How dismal tolled, that night, the city clock!
188At morn my sick heart hunger scarcely stung,
189Nor to the beggar’s language could I frame my tongue.
190So passed another day, and so the third:
191Then did I try, in vain, the crowd’s resort,
192In deep despair by frightful wishes stirr’d,
193Near the sea-side I reached a ruined fort:
194There, pains which nature could no more support,
195With blindness linked, did on my vitals fall;
196Dizzy my brain, with interruption short
197Of hideous sense; I sunk, nor step could crawl,
198And thence was borne away to neighbouring hospital.
199Recovery came with food: but still, my brain
200Was weak, nor of the past had memory.
201 I heard my neighbours, in their beds, complain
202Of many things which never troubled me;
203Of feet still bustling round with busy glee,
204Of looks where common kindness had no part.
205Of service done with careless cruelty,
206Fretting the fever round the languid heart,
207And groans, which, as they said, would make a dead man start.
208These things just served to stir the torpid sense,
209Nor pain nor pity in my bosom raised.
210Memory, though slow, returned with strength: and thence
211Dismissed, again on open day I gazed,
212At houses, men, and common light, amazed.
213The lanes I sought, and as the sun retired,
214Came, where beneath the trees a faggot blazed;
215The wild brood saw me weep, my fate enquired,
216And gave me food, and rest, more welcome, more desired.
217My heart is touched to think that men like these,
218The rude earth’s tenants, were my first relief:
219How kindly did they paint their vagrant ease!
220And their long holiday that feared not grief,
221For all belonged to all, and each was chief.
222No plough their sinews strained; on grating road
223No wain they drove, and yet, the yellow sheaf
224In every vale for their delight was stowed:
225For them, in nature’s meads, the milky udder flowed,
226Semblance, with straw and panniered ass, they made
227Of potters wandering on from door to door:
228But life of happier sort to me pourtrayed,
229And other joys my fancy to allure;
230The bag-pipe dinning on the midnight moor
231In barn uplighted, and companions boon
232Well met from far with revelry secure,
233In depth of forest glade, when jocund June
234Rolled fast along the sky his warm and genial moon.
235But ill it suited me, in journey dark
236 O’er moor and mountain, midnight theft to hatch;
237To charm the surly house-dog’s faithful bark,
238Or hang on tiptoe at the lifted latch;
239The gloomy lantern, and the dim blue match,
240The black disguise, the warning whistle shrill,
241And ear still busy on its nightly watch,
242Were not for me, brought up in nothing ill;
243Besides, on griefs so fresh my thoughts were brooding still.
244What could I do, unaided and unblest?
245Poor Father! gone was every friend of thine:
246And kindred of dead husband are at best
247Small help, and, after marriage such as mine,
248With little kindness would to me incline.
249Ill was I then for toil or service fit:
250With tears whose course no effort could confine,
251By high-way side forgetful would I sit
252Whole hours, my idle arms in moping sorrow knit.
253 I lived upon the mercy of the fields
254And oft of cruelty the sky accused;
255On hazard, or what general bounty yields.
256Now coldly given, now utterly refused,
257The fields I for my bed have often used:
258But, what afflicts my peace with keenest ruth
259Is, that I have my inner self abused,
260Foregone the home delight of constant truth,
261And clear and open soul, so prized in fearless youth.
262Three years a wanderer, often have I view’d,
263In tears, the sun towards that country tend
264Where my poor heart lost all its fortitude:
265And now across this moor my steps I bend—
266Oh! tell me whither——for no earthly friend
267Have I.——She ceased, and weeping turned away,
268As if because her tale was at an end
269She wept;—because she had no more to say
270Of that perpetual weight which on her spirit lay.


1And this place our forefathers made for man!
2This is the process of our love and wisdom
3To each poor brother who offends against us—
4Most innocent, perhaps—and what if guilty?
5Is this the only cure? Merciful God!
6Each pore and natural outlet shrivell’d up
7By ignorance and parching poverty,
8His energies roll back upon his heart,
9And stagnate and corrupt; till changed to poison,
10They break out on him, like a loathsome plague spot.
11Then we call in our pamper’d mountebanks—
12And this is their best cure! uncomforted.
13And friendless solitude, groaning and tears.
14And savage faces, at the clanking hour,
15Seen through the steams and vapour of his dungeon,
16By the lamp’s dismal twilight! So he lies
17Circled with evil, till his very soul
18Unmoulds its essence, hopelessly deformed
19By sights of ever more deformity!
20With other ministrations thou, O nature!
21Healest thy wandering and distempered child:
22Thou pourest on him thy soft influences.
23Thy sunny hues, fair forms, and breathing sheets,
24Thy melodies of woods, and winds, and waters,
25Till he relent, and can no more endure
26To be a jarring and a dissonant thing,
27Amid this general dance and minstrelsy;
28But, bursting into tears, wins back his way,
29His angry spirit healed and harmonized
30By the benignant touch of love and beauty.



With an incident in which he was concerned.

1In the sweet shire of Cardigan,
2Not far from pleasant Ivor-hall,
3An old man dwells, a little man,
4 I’ve heard he once was tall.
5Of years he has upon his back,
6No doubt, a burthen weighty;
7He says he is three score and ten,
8But others say he’s eighty.
9 A long blue livery-coat has he,
10That’s fair behind, and fair before;
11Yet, meet him where you will, you see
12At once that he is poor.
13Full five and twenty years he lived
14 A running huntsman merry;
15And, though he has but one eye left,
16His cheek is like a cherry.
17No man like him the horn could sound,
18And no man was so full of glee;
19To say the least, four counties round.
20Had heard of Simon Lee;
21His master’s dead, and no one now
22Dwells in the hall of Ivor;
23Men, dogs, and horses, all are dead;
24He is the sole survivor.
25His hunting feats have him bereft
26Of his right eye, as you may see:
27And then, what limbs those feats have left
28To poor old Simon Lee!
29He has no son, he has no child,
30His wife, an aged woman,
31Lives with him, near the waterfall,
32Upon the village common.
33And he is lean and he is sick,
34His dwindled body’s half awry,
35His ancles they are swoln and thick;
36His legs are thin and dry.
37When he was young he little knew
38’Of husbandry or tillage;
39And now he’s forced to work, though weak,
40—The weakest in the village.
41He all the country could outrun,
42Could leave both man and horse behind;
43And often, ere the race was done,
44He reeled and was stone-blind.
45And still there’s something in the world
46At which his heart rejoices;
47For when the chiming bounds are out,
48He dearly loves their voices!
49Old Ruth works out of doors with him.
50And does what Simon cannot do;
51For she, not over stout of limb,
52Is stouter of the two.
53And though you with your utmost skill
54From labour could not wean them,
55Alas! ’tis very little, all
56Which they can do between them.
57Beside their moss-grown hut of clay,
58Not twenty paces from the door,
59 A scrap of land they have, but they
60Are poorest of the poor.
61This scrap of land he from the heath
62Enclosed when he was stronger;
63But what avails the land to them,
64Which they can till no longer?
65Few months of life has he in store,
66As he to you will-tell,
67For still, the more he works, the more
68His poor old ancles swell.
69My gentle reader, I perceive
70How patiently you’ve waited,
71And I’m afraid that you expect
72Some tale will be related.
73 O reader! had you in your mind
74Such stores as silent thought can bring,
75 O gentle reader! you would find
76 A tale in every thing.
77What more I have to say is short,
78 I hope you’ll kindly take it;
79It is no tale; but should you think,
80Perhaps a tale you’ll make it.
81One summer-day I chanced to see
82This old man doing all he could
83About the root of an old tree,
84 A stump of rotten wood.
85The mattock totter’d in his hand;
86So vain was his endeavour
87That at the root of the old tree
88He might have worked for ever.
89“You’ve overtasked, good Simon Lee,
90Give me your tool” to him I said;
91And at the word right gladly he
92Received my proffer’d aid.
93 I struck, and with a single blow
94The tangled root I sever’d,
95At which the poor old man so long
96And vainly had endeavoured.
97The tears into his eyes were brought,
98And thanks and praises seemed to run
99So fast out of his heart, I thought
100They never would have done.
101—I’ve heard of hearts unkind, kind deeds
102With coldness still returning.
103Alas! the gratitude of men
104Has oftner left me mourning.


Written in early Spring.

1 I heard a thousand blended notes,
2While in a grove I sate reclined,
3In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
4Bring sad thoughts to the mind.
5To her fair works did nature link
6The human soul that through me ran;
7And much it griev’d my heart to think
8What man has made of man.
9Through primrose tufts, in that sweet bower,
10The periwinkle trail’d its wreathes;
11And ’tis my faith that every flower
12Enjoys the air it breathes.
13The birds around me hopp’d and play’d:
14Their thoughts I cannot measure,
15But the least motion which they made,
16It seem’d a thrill of pleasure.
17The budding twigs spread out their fan,
18To catch the breezy air;
19And I must think, do all I can,
20That there was pleasure there.
21If I these thoughts may not prevent,
22If such be of my creed the plan,
23Have I not reason to lament
24What man has made of man?


Written in April, 1798.

1No cloud, no relique of the sunken day
2Distinguishes the West, no long thin slip
3Of sullen Light, no obscure trembling hues.
4Come, we will rest on this old mossy Bridge!
5You see the glimmer of the stream beneath,
6But hear no murmuring: it flows silently
7 O’er its soft bed of verdure. All is still,
8 A balmy night! and tho’ the stars be dim,
9Yet let us think upon the vernal showers
10That gladden the green earth, and we shall find
11 A pleasure in the dimness of the stars.
12And hark! the Nightingale begins its song
13“Most musical, most melancholy” [4] Bird!
14 A melancholy Bird? O idle thought!
15In nature there is nothing melancholy.
16—But some night wandering Man, whose heart was pierc’d
17With the remembrance of a grievous wrong,
18Or slow distemper or neglected love,
19(And so, poor Wretch! fill’d all things with himself
20And made all gentle sounds tell back the tale
21Of his own sorrows) he and such as he
22First named these notes a melancholy strain:
23And many a poet echoes the conceit;
24Poet, who hath been building up the rhyme
[Footnote 4: “Most musical, most melancholy.” This passage in Milton possesses an excellence far superior to that of mere description: it is spoken in the character of the melancholy Man, and has therefore a dramatic propriety. The Author makes this remark, to rescue himself from the charge of having alluded with levity to a line in Milton: a charge than which none could be more painful to him, except perhaps that of having ridiculed his Bible.]
25When he had better far have stretch’d his limbs
26Beside a ’brook in mossy forest-dell
27By sun or moonlight, to the influxes
28Of shapes and sounds and shifting elements
29Surrendering his whole spirit, of his song
30And of his fame forgetful! so his fame
31Should share in nature’s immortality,
32 A venerable thing! and so his song
33Should make all nature lovelier, and itself
34Be lov’d, like nature!—But ’twill not be so;
35And youths and maidens most poetical
36Who lose the deep’ning twilights of the spring
37In ball-rooms and hot theatres, they still
38Full of meek sympathy must heave their sighs
39 O’er Philomela’s pity-pleading strains.
40My Friend, and my Friend’s Sister! we have learnt
41 A different lore: we may not thus profane
42Nature’s sweet voices always full of love
43And joyance! Tis the merry Nightingale
44That crowds, and hurries, and precipitates
45With fast thick warble his delicious notes,
46As he were fearful, that an April night
47Would be too short for him to utter forth
48Hi? love-chant, and disburthen his full soul
49Of all its music! And I know a grove
50Of large extent, hard by a castle huge
51Which the great lord inhabits not: and so
52This grove is wild with tangling underwood,
53And the trim walks are broken up, and grass,
54Thin grass and king-cups grow within the paths.
55But never elsewhere in one place I knew
56So many Nightingales: and far and near
57In wood and thicket over the wide grove
58They answer and provoke each other’s songs—
59With skirmish and capricious passagings,
60And murmurs musical and swift jug jug
61And one low piping sound more sweet than all—
62Stirring the air with such an harmony,
63That should you close your eyes, you might almost
64Forget it was not day!
65 A most gentle maid
66Who dwelleth in her hospitable home
67Hard by the Castle, and at latest eve,
68(Even like a Lady vow’d and dedicate
69To something more than nature in the grove)
70Glides thro’ the pathways; she knows all their notes,
71That gentle Maid! and oft, a moment’s space,
72What time the moon was lost behind a cloud,
73Hath heard a pause of silence: till the Moon
74Emerging, hath awaken’d earth and sky
75With one sensation, and those wakeful Birds
76Have all burst forth in choral minstrelsy,
77At if one quick and sudden Gale had swept
78An hundred airy harps! And she hath watch’d
79Many a Nightingale perch giddily
80On blosmy twig still swinging from the breeze,
81And to that motion tune his wanton song,
82Like tipsy Joy that reels with tossing head.
83Farewell, O Warbler! till to-morrow eve,
84And you, my friends! farewell, a short farewell!
85We have been loitering long and pleasantly,
86And now for our dear homes.—That strain again!
87Full fain it would delay me!-My dear Babe,
88Who, capable of no articulate sound,
89Mars all things with his imitative lisp,
90How he would place his hand beside his ear,
91His little hand, the small forefinger up,
92And bid us listen! And I deem it wise
93To make him Nature’s playmate. He knows well
94The evening star: and once when he awoke
95In most distressful mood (some inward pain
96Had made up that strange thing, an infant’s dream)
97 I hurried with him to our orchard plot,
98And he beholds the moon, and hush’d at once
99Suspends his sobs, and laughs most silently,
100While his fair eyes that swam with undropt tears
101Did glitter in the yellow moon-beam! Well—
102It is a father’s tale. But if that Heaven
103Should give me life, his childhood shall grow up
104Familiar with these songs, that with the night
105He may associate Joy! Once more farewell,
106Sweet Nightingale! once more, my friends! farewell.


Written when sailing in a Boat At EVENING.

1How rich the wave, in front, imprest
2With evening twilights summer hues,
3While, facing thus the crimson west,
4The boat her silent path pursues!
5And see how dark the backward stream!
6 A little moment past, so smiling!
7And still, perhaps, with faithless gleam,
8Some other loiterer beguiling.
9Such views the youthful bard allure,
10But, heedless of the following gloom,
11He deems their colours shall endure
12’Till peace go with him to the tomb.
13—And let him nurse his fond deceit,
14And what if he must die in sorrow!
15Who would not cherish dreams so sweet,
16Though grief and pain may come to-morrow?


Written near Richmond upon the Thames.

1Glide gently, thus for ever glide,
2 O Thames! that other bards may see,
3As lovely visions by thy side
4As now, fair river! come to me.
5Oh glide, fair stream! for ever so;
6Thy quiet soul on all bestowing,
7’Till all our minds for ever flow,
8As thy deep waters now are flowing.
9Vain thought! yet be as now thou art,
10That in thy waters may be seen
11The image of a poet’s heart,
12How bright, how solemn, how serene!
13Such as did once the poet bless,
14Who, pouring here a later ditty,
15Could find no refuge from distress,
16But in the milder grief of pity.
17Remembrance! as we float along,
18For him suspend the dashing oar,
19And pray that never child of Song
20May know his freezing sorrows more.
21How calm! how still! the only sound,
22The dripping of the oar suspended!
23—The evening darkness gathers round
24By virtue’s holiest powers attended. [5]
[Footnote 5: Collins’s Ode on the death of Thomson, the last written, I believe, of the poems which were published during his life-time. This Ode is also alluded to in the next stanza.]


1’Tis eight o’clock,—a clear March night,
2The moon is up—the sky is blue,
3The owlet in the moonlight air,
4He shouts from nobody knows where;
5He lengthens out his lonely shout,
6Halloo! halloo! a long halloo!
7—Why bustle thus about your door,
8What means this bustle, Betty Foy?
9Why are you in this mighty fret?
10And why on horseback have you set
11Him whom you love, your idiot boy?
12Beneath the moon that shines so bright,
13Till she is tired, let Betty Foy
14With girt and sti
rrup fiddle-faddle;
15But wherefore set upon a saddle
16Him whom she loves, her idiot boy?
17There’s scarce a soul that’s out of bed;
18Good Betty put him down again;
19His lips with joy they burr at you,
20But, Betty! what has he to do
21With stirrup, saddle, or with rein?
22The world will say ’tis very idle,
23Bethink you of the time of night;
24There’s not a mother, no not one,
25But when she hears what you have done,
26Oh! Betty she’ll be in a fright.
27But Betty’s bent on her intent,
28For her good neighbour, Susan Gale,
29Old Susan, she who dwells alone,
30Is sick, and makes a piteous moan,
31As if her very life would fail.
32There’s not a house within a mile,
33No hand to help them in distress;
34Old Susan lies a bed in pain,
35And sorely puzzled are the twain,
36For what she ails they cannot guess.
37And Betty’s husband’s at the wood,
38Where by the week he doth abide,
39 A woodman in the distant vale;
40There’s none to help poor Susan Gale,
41What must be done? what will betide?
42And Betty from the lane has fetched
43Her pony, that is mild and good,
44Whether he be in joy or pain,
45Feeding at will along the lane,
46Or bringing faggots from the wood.
47And he is all in travelling trim,
48And by the moonlight, Betty Foy
49Has up upon the saddle set,
50The like was never heard of yet,
51Him whom she loves, her idiot boy.
52And he must post without delay
53Across the bridge that’s in the dale,
54And by the church, and o’er the down,
55To bring a doctor from the town,
56Or she will die, old Susan Gale.
57There is no need of boot or spur,
58There is no need of whip or wand,
59For Johnny has his holly-bough,
60And with a hurly-burly now
61He shakes the green bough in his hand.
62And Betty o’er and o’er has told
63The boy who is her best delight,
64Both what to follow, what to shun,
65What do, and what to leave undone,
66How turn to left, and how to right.
67And Betty’s most especial charge,
68Was, “Johnny! Johnny! mind that you
69Come home again, nor stop at all,
70Come home again, whate’er befal,
71My Johnny do, I pray you do.”
72To this did Johnny answer make,
73Both with his head, and with his hand,
74And proudly shook the bridle too,
75And then! his words were not a few,
76Which Betty well could understand.
77And now that Johnny is just going,
78Though Betty’s in a mighty flurry,
79She gently pats the pony’s side,
80On which her idiot boy must ride,
81And seems no longer in a hurry.
82But when the pony moved his legs,
83Oh! then for the poor idiot boy!
84For joy he cannot hold the bridle,
85For joy his head and heels are idle,
86He’s idle all for very joy.
87And while the pony moves his legs,
88In Johnny’s left hand you may see,
89The green bough’s motionless and dead:
90The moon that shines above his head
91Is not more still and mute than he.
92His heart it was so full of glee,
93That till full fifty yards were gone,
94He quite forgot his holly whip,
95And all his skill in horsemanship,
96Oh! happy, happy, happy John.
97And Betty’s standing at the door,
98And Betty’s face with joy o’erflows,
99Proud of herself, and proud of him,
100She sees him in his travelling trim;
101How quietly her Johnny goes.
102The silence of her idiot boy,
103What hopes it sends to Betty’s heart!
104He’s at the guide-post—he turns right,
105She watches till he’s out of sight,
106And Betty will not then depart.
107Burr, burr—now Johnny’s lips they burr,
108As loud as any mill, or near it,
109Meek as a lamb the pony moves,
110And Johnny makes the noise he loves,
111And Betty listens, glad to hear it.
112Away she hies to Susan Gale:
113And Johnny’s in a merry tune,
114The owlets hoot, the owlets purr,
115And Johnny’s lips they burr, burr, burr,
116And on he goes beneath the moon.
117His steed and he right well agree,
118For of this pony there’s a rumour,
119That should he lose his eyes and ears,
120And should he live a thousand years,
121He never will be out of humour.
122But then he is a horse that thinks!
123And when he thinks his pace is slack;
124Now, though he knows poor Johnny well,
125Yet for his life he cannot tell
126What he has got upon his back.
127So through the moonlight lanes they go,
128And far into the moonlight dale,
129And by the church, and o’er the down,
130To bring a doctor from the town,
131To comfort poor old Susan Gale.
132And Betty, now at Susan’s side,
133Is in the middle of her story,
134What comfort Johnny soon will bring,
135With many a most diverting thing,
136Of Johnny’s wit and Johnny’s glory.
137And Betty’s still at Susan’s side:
138By this time she’s not quite so flurried;
139Demure with porringer and plate
140She sits, as if in Susan’s fate
141Her life and soul were buried.
142But Betty, poor good woman! she,
143You plainly in her face may read it,
144Could lend out of that moment’s store
145Five years of happiness or more,
146To any that might need it.
147But yet I guess that now and then
148With Betty all was not so well,
149And to the road she turns her ears,
150And thence full many a sound she hears,
151Which she to Susan will not tell.
152Poor Susan moans, poor Susan groans,
153“As sure as there’s a moon in heaven,”
154Cries Betty, “he’ll be back again;
155They’ll both be here, ’tis almost ten,
156They’ll both be here before eleven.”
157Poor Susan moans, poor Susan groans,
158The clock gives warning for eleven;
159’Tis on the stroke—“If Johnny’s near,”
160Quoth Betty “he will soon be here,
161As sure as there’s a moon in heaven.”
162The clock is on the stroke of twelve,
163And Johnny is not yet in sight,
164The moon’s in heaven, as Betty sees,
165But Betty is not quite at ease;
166And Susan has a dreadful night.
167And Betty, half an hour ago,
168On Johnny vile reflections cast:
169“A little idle sauntering thing!”
170With other names, an endless string.
171But now that time is gone and past.
172And Betty’s drooping at the heart.
173That happy time all past and gone,
174“How can it be he is so late?
175The Doctor he has made him wait,
176Susan! they’ll both be here anon.”
177And Susan’s growing worse and worse,
178And Betty’s in a sad quandary;
179And then there’s nobody to say
180If she must go or she must stay:
181—She’s in a sad quandary.
182The clock is on the stroke of one;
183But neither Doctor nor his guide
184Appear along the moonlight road,
185There’s neither horse nor man abroad,
186And Betty’s still at Susan’s side.
187And Susan she begins to fear
188Of sad mischances not a few,
189That Johnny may perhaps be drown’d,
190Or lost perhaps, and never found;
191Which they must both for ever rue.
192She prefaced half a hint of this
193With, “God forbid it should be true!”
194At the first word that Susan said
195Cried Betty, rising from the bed,
196“Susan, I’d gladly stay with you.”
197“I must be gone, I must away,
198Consider, Johnny’s but half-wise;
199Susan, we must take care of him,
200If he is hurt in life or limb”—
201“Oh God forbid!” poor Susan cries.
202“What can I do?” says Betty, going,
203“What can I do to ease your pain?
204Good Susan tell me, and I’ll stay;
205 I fear you’re in a dreadful way,
206But I shall soon be back again.”
207“Nay, Betty, go! good Betty, go!
208There’s nothing that can ease my pain.”
209Then off she hies, but with a prayer
210That God poor Susan’s life would spare,
211Till she comes back again.
212So, through the moonlight lane she goes,
213And far into the moonlight dale;
214And how she ran, and how she walked,
215And all that to herself she talked,
216Would surely be a tedious tale.
217In high and low, above, below,
218In great and small, in round and square,
219In tree and tower was Johnny seen,
220In bush and brake, in black and green,
221’Twas Johnny, Johnny, every where.
222She’s past the bridge that’s in the dale,
223And now the thought torments her sore,
224Johnny perhaps his horse forsook,
225To hunt the moon that’s in the brook,
226And never will be heard of more.
227And now she’s high upon the down,
228Alone amid a prospect wide;
229There’s neither Johnny nor his horse,
230Among the fern or in the gorse;
231There’s neither doctor nor his guide.
232“Oh saints! what is become of him?
233Perhaps he’s climbed into an oak,
234Where he will stay till he is dead;
235Or sadly he has been misled,
236And joined the wandering gypsey-folk.”
237“Or him that wicked pony’s carried
238To the dark cave, the goblins’ hall,
239Or in the castle he’s pursuing,
240Among the ghosts, his own undoing;
241Or playing with the waterfall,”
242At poor old Susan then she railed,
243While to the town she posts away;
244“If Susan had not been so ill,
245Alas! I should have had him still,
246My Johnny, till my dying day.”
247Poor Betty! in this sad distemper,
248The doctor’s self would hardly spare,
249Unworthy things she talked and wild,
250Even he, of cattle the most mild,
251The pony had his share.
252And now she’s got into the town,
253And to the doctor’s door she hies;
254’Tis silence all on every side;
255The town so long, the town so wide,
256Is silent as the skies.
257And now she’s at the doctor’s door,
258She lifts the knocker, rap, rap, rap,
259The doctor at the casement shews,
260His glimmering eyes that peep and doze;
261And one hand rubs his old night-cap.
262“Oh Doctor! Doctor! where’s my Johnny?”
263“I’m here, what is’t you want with me?”
264“Oh Sir! you know I’m Betty Foy,
265And I have lost my poor dear boy,
266You know him—him you often see;”
267“He’s not so wise as some folks be,”
268“The devil take his wisdom!” said
269The Doctor, looking somewhat grim,
270“What, woman! should I know of him?”
271And, grumbling, he went back to bed.
272“O woe is me! O woe is me!
273Here will I die; here will I die;
274 I thought to find my Johnny here,
275But he is neither far nor near,
276Oh! what a wretched mother I!”
277She stops, she stands, she looks about,
278Which way to turn she cannot tell.
279Poor Betty! it would ease her pain
280If she had heart to knock again;
281—The clock strikes three—a dismal knell!
282Then up along the town she hies,
283No wonder if her senses fail,
284This piteous news so much it shock’d her,
285She quite forgot to send the Doctor,
286To comfort poor old Susan Gale.
287And now she’s high upon the down,
288And she can see a mile of road,
289“Oh cruel! I’m almost three-score;
290Such night as this was ne’er before,
291There’s not a single soul abroad.”
292She listens, but she cannot hear
293The foot of horse, the voice of man;
294The streams with softest sound are flowing,
295The grass you almost hear it growing,
296You hear it now if e’er you can.
297The owlets through the long blue night
298Are shouting to each other still:
299Fond lovers, yet not quite hob nob,
300They lengthen out the tremulous sob,
301That echoes far from hill to hill.
302Poor Betty now has lost all hope,
303Her thoughts are bent on deadly sin;
304 A green-grown pond she just has pass’d,
305And from the brink she hurries fast,
306Lest she should drown herself therein.
307And now she sits her down and weeps;
308Such tears she never shed before;
309“Oh dear, dear pony! my sweet joy!
310Oh carry back my idiot boy!
311And we will ne’er o’erload thee more.”
312 A thought it come into her head;
313“The pony he is mild and good,
314And we have always used him well;
315Perhaps he’s gone along the dell,
316And carried Johnny to the wood.”
317Then up she springs as if on wings;
318She thinks no more of deadly sin;
319If Betty fifty ponds should see,
320The last of all her thoughts would be,
321To drown herself therein.
322Oh reader! now that I might tell
323What Johnny and his horse are doing!
324What they’ve been doing all this time,
325Oh could I put it into rhyme,
326 A most delightful tale pursuing!
327Perhaps, and no unlikely thought!
328He with his pony now doth roam
329The cliffs and peaks so high that are,
330To lay his hands upon a star,
331And in his pocket bring it home.
332Perhaps he’s turned himself about,
333His face unto his horse’s tail,
334And still and mute, in wonder lost,
335All like a silent horse-man ghost,
336He travels on along the vale.
337And now, perhaps, he’s hunting sheep,
338 A fierce and dreadful hunter he!
339Yon valley, that’s so trim and green,
340In five months’ time, should he be seen,
341 A desart wilderness will be.
342Perhaps, with head and heels on fire,
343And like the very soul of evil,
344He’s galloping away, away,
345And so he’ll gallop on for aye,
346The bane of all that dread the devil.
347 I to the muses have been bound
348These fourteen years, by strong indentures:
349Oh gentle muses! let me tell
350But half of what to him befel,
351For sure he met with strange adventures.
352Oh gentle muses! is this kind
353Why will ye thus my suit repel?
354Why of your further aid bereave me?
355And can ye thus unfriended leave me?
356Ye muses! whom I love so well.
357Who’s yon, that, near the waterfall,
358Which thunders down with headlong force,
359Beneath the moon, yet shining fair,
360As careless as if nothing were,
361Sits upright on a feeding horse?
362Unto his horse, that’s feeding free,
363He seems, I think, the rein to give;
364Of moon or stars he takes no heed;
365Of such we in romances read,
366—Tis Johnny! Johnny! as I live.
367And that’s the very pony too.
368Where is she, where is Betty Foy?
369She hardly can sustain her fears;
370The roaring water-fall she hears,
371And cannot find her idiot boy.
372Your pony’s worth his weight in gold,
373Then calm your terrors, Betty Foy!
374She’s coming from among the trees,
375And now all full in view she sees
376Him whom she loves, her idiot boy.
377And Betty sees the pony too:
378Why stand you thus Good Betty Foy?
379It is no goblin, ’tis no ghost,
380’Tis he whom you so long have lost,
381He whom you love, your idiot boy.
382She looks again-her arms are up—
383She screams—she cannot move for joy;
384She darts as with a torrent’s force,
385She almost has o’erturned the horse,
386And fast she holds her idiot boy.
387And Johnny burrs, and laughs aloud,
388Whether in cunning or in joy,
389 I cannot tell; but while he laughs,
390Betty a drunken pleasure quaffs,
391To hear again her idiot boy.
392And now she’s at the pony’s tail,
393And now she’s at the pony’s head,
394On that side now, and now on this,
395And almost stifled with her bliss,
396 A few sad tears does Betty shed.
397She kisses o’er and o’er again,
398Him whom she loves, her idiot boy,
399She’s happy here, she’s happy there.
400She is uneasy every where;
401Her limbs are all alive with joy.
402She pats the pony, where or when
403She knows not, happy Betty Foy!
404The little pony glad may be,
405But he is milder far than she,
406You hardly can perceive his joy.
407“Oh! Johnny, never mind the Doctor;
408You’ve done your best, and that is all.”
409She took the reins, when this was said,
410And gently turned the pony’s head
411From the loud water-fall.
412By this the stars were almost gone,
413The moon was setting on the hill,
414So pale you scarcely looked at her:
415The little birds began to stir,
416Though yet their tongues were still.
417The pony, Betty, and her boy,
418Wind slowly through the woody dale;
419And who is she, be-times abroad,
420That hobbles up the steep rough road?
421Who is it, but old Susan Gale?
422Long Susan lay deep lost in thought,
423And many dreadful fears beset her,
424Both for her messenger and nurse;
425And as her mind grew worse and worse,
426Her body it grew better.
427She turned, she toss’d herself in bed,
428On all sides doubts and terrors met her;
429Point after point did she discuss;
430And while her mind was fighting thus,
431Her body still grew better.
432“Alas! what is become of them?
433These fears can never be endured,
434 I’ll to the wood.”—The word scarce said,
435Did Susan rise up from her bed,
436As if by magic cured.
437Away she posts up hill and down,
438And to the wood at length is come,
439She spies her friends, she shouts a greeting;
440Oh me! it is a merry meeting,
441As ever was in Christendom.
442The owls have hardly sung their last,
443While our four travellers homeward wend;
444The owls have hooted all night long,
445And with the owls began my song,
446And with the owls must end.
447For while they all were travelling home,
448Cried Betty, “Tell us Johnny, do,
449Where all this long night you have been,
450What you have heard, what you have seen,
451And Johnny, mind you tell us true.”
452Now Johnny all night long had heard
453The owls in tuneful concert strive;
454No doubt too he the moon had seen;
455For in the moonlight he had been
456From eight o’clock till five.
457And thus to Betty’s question, he,
458Made answer, like a traveller bold,
459(His very words I give to you,)
460“The cocks did crow to-whoo, to-whoo,
461And the sun did shine so cold.”
462—Thus answered Johnny in his glory,
463And that was all his travel’s story.


1All Thoughts, all Passions, all Delights,
2Whatever stirs this mortal Frame,
3All are but Ministers of Love,
4 And feed his sacred flame.
5Oft in my waking dreams do I
6Live o’er again that happy hour,
7When midway on the Mount I lay
8 Beside the Ruin’d Tower.
9The Moonshine stealing o’er the scene
10Had blended with the Lights of Eve;
11And she was there, my Hope, my Joy,
12 My own dear Genevieve!
13She lean’d against the Armed Man,
14The Statue of the Armed Knight:
15She stood and listen’d to my Harp
16 Amid the ling’ring Light.
17Few Sorrows hath she of her own,
18My Hope, my Joy, my Genevieve!
19She loves me best, whene’er I sing
20 The Songs, that make her grieve.
21I play’d a soft and doleful Air,
22 I sang an old and moving Story—
23An old rude Song that fitted well
24 The Ruin wild and hoary.
25She listen’d with a flitting Blush,
26With downcast Eyes and modest Grace;
27For well she knew, I could not choose
28 But gaze upon her Face.
29I told her of the Knight, that wore
30Upon his Shield a burning Brand;
31And that for ten long Years he woo’d
32 The Lady of the Land.
33I told her, how he pin’d: and, ah!
34The low, the deep, the pleading tone,
35With which I sang another’s Love,
36 Interpreted my own.
37She listen’d with a flitting Blush,
38With downcast Eyes and modest Grace;
39And she forgave me, that I gaz’d
40 Too fondly on her Face!
41But when I told the cruel scorn
42Which craz’d this bold and lovely Knight,
43And that be cross’d the mountain woods
44 Nor rested day nor night;
45That sometimes from the savage Den,
46And sometimes from the darksome Shade,
47And sometimes starting up at once
48 In green and sunny Glade,
49There came, and look’d him in the face,
50An Angel beautiful and bright;
51And that he knew, it was a Fiend,
52 This miserable Knight!
53And that, unknowing what he did,
54He leapt amid a murd’rous Band,
55And sav’d from Outrage worse than Death
56 The Lady of the Land;
57And how she wept and clasp’d his knees
58And how she tended him in vain—
59And ever strove to expiate
60 The Scorn, that craz’d his Brain
61And that she nurs’d him in a Cave;
62And how his Madness went away
63When on the yellow forest leaves
64 A dying Man he lay;
65His dying words—but when I reach’d
66That tenderest strain of all the Ditty,
67My falt’ring Voice and pausing Harp
68 Disturb’d her Soul with Pity!
69All Impulses of Soul and Sense
70Had thrill’d my guileless Genevieve,
71The Music, and the doleful Tale,
72 The rich and balmy Eve;
73And Hopes, and Fears that kindle Hope,
74An undistinguishable Throng!
75And gentle Wishes long subdued,
76 Subdued and cherish’d long!
77She wept with pity and delight,
78She blush’d with love and maiden shame;
79And, like the murmur of a dream,
80 I heard her breathe my name.
81Her Bosom heav’d—she stepp’d aside;
82As conscious of my Look, she stepp’d—
83Then suddenly with timorous eye
84 She fled to me and wept.
85She half inclosed me with her arms,
86She press’d me with a meek embrace;
87And bending back her head look’d up,
88 And gaz’d upon my face.
89’Twas partly Love, and partly Fear,
90And partly ’twas a bashful Art
91That I might rather feel than see
92 The Swelling of her Heart.
93I calm’d her Tears; and she was calm,
94And told her love with virgin Pride.
95And so I won my Genevieve,
96 My bright and beauteous Bride!


1Her eyes are wild, her head is bare,
2The sun has burnt her coal-black hair,
3Her eye-brows have a rusty stain,
4And she came far from over the main.
5She has a baby on her arm,
6Or else she were alone;
7And underneath the hay-stack warm,
8And on the green-wood stone,
9She talked and sung the woods among;
10And it was in the English tongue.
11“Sweet babe! they say that I am mad,
12But nay, my heart is far too glad;
13And I am happy when I sing
14Full many a sad and doleful thing:
15Then, lovely baby, do not fear!
16 I pray thee have no fear of me,
17But, safe as in a cradle, here
18My lovely baby! thou shalt be,
19To thee I know too much I owe;
20 I cannot work thee any woe.”
21 A fire was once within my brain;
22And in my head a dull, dull pain;
23And fiendish faces one, two, three,
24Hung at my breasts, and pulled at me.
25But then there came a sight of joy;
26It came at once to do me good;
27 I waked, and saw my little boy,
28My little boy of flesh and blood;
29Oh joy for me that sight to see!
30For he was here, and only he.
31Suck, little babe, oh suck again!
32It cools my blood; it cools my brain;
33Thy lips I feel them, baby! they
34Draw from my heart the pain away.
35Oh! press me with thy little hand;
36It loosens something at my chest;
37About that tight and deadly band
38 I feel thy little fingers press’d.
39The breeze I see is in the tree;
40It comes to cool my babe and me.
41Oh! love me, love me, little boy!
42Thou art thy mother’s only joy;
43And do not dread the waves below,
44When o’er the sea-rock’s edge we go;
45The high crag cannot work me harm,
46Nor leaping torrents when they howl;
47The babe I carry on my arm,
48He saves for me my precious soul;
49Then happy lie, for blest am I;
50Without me my sweet babe would die.
51Then do not fear, my boy! for thee
52Bold as a lion I will be;
53And I will always be thy guide,
54Through hollow snows and rivers wide.
55 I’ll build an Indian bower; I know
56The leaves that make the softest bed:
57And if from me thou wilt not go.
58But still be true ’till I am dead,
59My pretty thing! then thou shalt sing,
60As merry as the birds in spring.
61Thy father cares not for my breast,
62’Tis thine, sweet baby, there to rest:
63’Tis all thine own! and if its hue
64Be changed, that was so fair to view,
65’Tis fair enough for thee, my dove!
66My beauty, little child, is flown;
67But thou will live with me in love,
68And what if my poor cheek be brown?
69’Tis well for me, thou canst not see
70How pale and wan it else would be.
71Dread not their taunts, my little life!
72 I am thy father’s wedded wife;
73And underneath the spreading tree
74We two will live in honesty.
75If his sweet boy he could forsake,
76With me he never would have stay’d:
77From him no harm my babe can take,
78But he, poor man! is wretched made,
79And every day we two will pray
80For him that’s gone and far away.
81 I’ll teach my boy the sweetest things;
82 I’ll teach him how the owlet sings.
83My little babe! thy lips are still,
84And thou hast almost suck’d thy fill.
85—Where art thou gone my own dear child?
86What wicked looks are those I see?
87Alas! alas! that look so wild,
88It never, never came from me:
89If thou art mad, my pretty lad,
90Then I must be for ever sad.
91Oh! smile on me, my little lamb!
92For I thy own dear mother am.
93My love for thee has well been tried:
94 I’ve sought thy father far and wide.
95 I know the poisons of the shade,
96 I know the earth-nuts fit for food;
97Then, pretty dear, be not afraid;
98We’ll find thy father in the wood.
99Now laugh and be gay, to the woods away!
100And there, my babe; we’ll live for aye.




How a Ship, having first sailed to the Equator, was driven by Storms, to the cold Country towards the South Pole; how the Ancient Mariner cruelly, and in contempt of the laws of hospitality, killed a Sea-bird; and how he was followed by many and strange Judgements; and in what manner he came back to his own Country.




1It is an ancient Mariner,
2 And he stoppeth one of three:
3“By thy long grey beard and thy glittering eye
4 Now wherefore stoppest me?”
5“The Bridegroom’s doors are open’d wide
6 And I am next of kin;
7The Guests are met, the Feast is set,—
8 May’st hear the merry din.”
9But still he holds the wedding guest—
10 “There was a Ship, quoth he—”
11“Nay, if thou’st got a laughsome tale,
12 Mariner! come with me.”
13He holds him with his skinny hand,
14 Quoth he, there was a Ship—
15“Now get thee hence, thou grey-beard Loon
16 Or my Staff shall make thee skip.”
17He holds him with his glittering eye—
18 The wedding guest stood still
19And listens like a three year’s child;
20 The Mariner hath his will.
21The wedding-guest sate on a stone,
22 He cannot chuse but hear:
23And thus spake on that ancient man,
24 The bright-eyed Mariner.
25The Ship was cheer’d, the Harbour clear’d—
26 Merrily did we drop
27Below the Kirk, below the Hill,
28 Below the Light-house top.
29The Sun came up upon the left,
30 Out of the Sea came he:
31And he shone bright, and on the right
32 Went down into the Sea.
33Higher and higher every day,
34 Till over the mast at noon—
35The wedding-guest here beat his breast,
36 For he heard the loud bassoon.
37The Bride hath pac’d into the Hall,
38 Red as a rose is she;
39Nodding their heads before her goes
40 The merry Minstralsy.
41The wedding-guest he beat his breast,
42 Yet he cannot chuse but hear:
43And thus spake on that ancient Man,
44 The bright-eyed Mariner.
45But now the Northwind came more fierce,
46 There came a Tempest strong!
47And Southward still for days and weeks
48 Like Chaff we drove along.
49And now there came both Mist and Snow,
50 And it grew wond’rous cold;
51And Ice mast-high came floating by
52 As green as Emerald.
53And thro’ the drifts the snowy clifts
54 Did send a dismal sheen;
55Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken—
56 The Ice was all between.
57The Ice was here, the Ice was there,
58 The Ice was all around:
59It crack’d and growl’d, and roar’d and howl’d—
60 A wild and ceaseless sound.
61At length did cross an Albatross,
62 Thorough the Fog it came;
63As if it had been a Christian Soul,
64 We hail’d it in God’s name.
65The Mariners gave it biscuit-worms,
66 And round and round it flew:
67The Ice did split with a Thunder-fit;
68 The Helmsman steer’d us thro’.
69And a good south wind sprung up behind.
70 The Albatross did follow;
71And every day for food or play
72 Came to the Mariner’s hollo!
73In mist or cloud on mast or shroud
74 It perch’d for vespers nine,
75Whiles all the night thro’ fog-smoke white
76 Glimmer’d the white moon-shine.
77“God save thee, ancient Mariner!
78 From the fiends that plague thee thus—”
79“Why look’st thou so?—with my cross bow
80 I shot the Albatross.”


81The Sun now rose upon the right,
82 Out of the Sea came he;
83Still hid in mist; and on the left
84 Went down into the Sea.
85And the good south wind still blew behind,
86 But no sweet Bird did follow
87Nor any day for food or play
88 Came to the Mariner’s hollo!
89And I had done an hellish thing
90 And it would work ’em woe:
91For all averr’d, I had kill’d the Bird
92 That made the Breeze to blow.
93Nor dim nor red, like an Angel’s head,
94 The glorious Sun uprist:
95Then all averr’d, I had kill’d the Bird
96 That brought the fog and mist.
97’Twas right, said they, such birds to slay
98 That bring the fog and mist.
99The breezes blew, the white foam flew,
100 The furrow follow’d free:
101We were the first that ever burst
102 Into that silent Sea.
103Down dropt the breeze, the Sails dropt down,
104 ’Twas sad as sad could be
105And we did speak only to break
106 The silence of the Sea.
107All in a hot and copper sky
108 The bloody sun at noon,
109Right up above the mast did stand,
110 No bigger than the moon.
111Day after day, day after day,
112 We stuck, nor breath nor motion,
113As idle as a painted Ship
114 Upon a painted Ocean.
115Water, water, every where
116 And all the boards did shrink;
117Water, water, every where,
118 Nor any drop to drink.
119The very deeps did rot: O Christ!
120 That ever this should be!
121Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
122 Upon the slimy Sea.
123About, about, in reel and rout
124 The Death-fires danc’d at night;
125The water, like a witch’s oils.
126 Burnt green and blue and white.
127And some in dreams assured were
128 Of the Spirit that plagued us so:
129Nine fathom deep he had follow’d us
130 From the Land of Mist and Snow.
131And every tongue thro’ utter drouth
132 Was wither’d at the root;
133We could not speak no more than if
134 We had been choked with soot.
135Ah wel-a-day! what evil looks
136 Had I from old and young;
137Instead of the Cross the Albatross
138 About my neck was hung.


139So past a weary time; each throat
140 Was parch’d, and glaz’d each eye,
141When, looking westward, I beheld
142 A something in the sky.
143At first it seem’d a little speck
144 And then it seem’d a mist:
145It mov’d and mov’d, and took at last
146 A certain shape, I wist.
147 A speck, a mist, a shape, I wist!
148 And still it near’d and near’d;
149And, as if it dodg’d a water-sprite,
150 It plung’d and tack’d and veer’d.
151With throat unslack’d, with black lips bak’d
152 We could nor laugh nor wail;
153Thro’ utter drouth all dumb we stood
154Till I bit my arm and suck’d the blood,
155 And cry’d, A sail! a sail!
156With throat unslack’d, with black lips bak’d
157 Agape they heard me call:
158Gramercy! they for joy did grin
159And all at once their breath drew in
160 As they were drinking all.
161See! See! (I cry’d) she tacks no more!
162 Hither to work us weal
163Without a breeze, without a tide
164 She steddies with upright keel!
165The western wave was all a flame,
166 The day was well nigh done!
167Almost upon the western wave
168 Rested the broad bright Sun;
169When that strange shape drove suddenly
170 Betwixt us and the Sun.
171And strait the Sun was fleck’d with bars
172 (Heaven’s mother send us grace)
173As if thro’ a dungeon grate he peer’d
174 With broad and burning face.
175Alas! (thought I, and my heart beat loud)
176 How fast she nears and nears!
177Are those her Sails that glance in the Sun
178 Like restless gossameres?
179Are those her Ribs, thro’ which the Sun
180 Did peer, as thro’ a grate?
181And are those two all, all her crew.
182 That Woman, and her Mate?
183His bones were black with many a crack,
184 All black and bare, I ween;
185Jet-black and bare, save where with rust
186Of mouldy damps and charnel crust
187 They were patch’d with purple and green.
188Her lips were red, her looks were free,
189 Her locks were yellow as gold:
190Her skin was as white as leprosy,
191And she was far liker Death than he;
192 Her flesh made the still air cold.
193The naked Hulk alongside came
194 And the Twain were playing dice;
195“The Game is done! I’ve won, I’ve won!”
196 Quoth she, and whistled thrice.
197 A gust of wind sterte up behind
198 And whistled thro’ his bones;
199Thro’ the holes of his eyes and the hole of his mouth
200 Half-whistles and half-groans.
201With never a whisper in the Sea
202 Off darts the Spectre-ship;
203While clombe above the Eastern bar
204The horned Moon, with one bright Star
205 Almost between the tips.
206One after one by the horned Moon
207 (Listen, O Stranger! to me)
208Each turn’d his face with a ghastly pang
209 And curs’d me with his ee.
210Four times fifty living men,
211 With never a sigh or groan,
212With heavy thump, a lifeless lump
213 They dropp’d down one by one.
214Their souls did from their bodies fly,—
215 They fled to bliss or woe;
216And every soul it pass’d me by,
217 Like, the whiz of my Cross-bow.


218“I fear thee, ancient Mariner!
219 I fear thy skinny hand;
220And thou art long and lank and brown
221 As is the ribb’d Sea-sand.”
222“I fear thee and thy glittering eye
223 And thy skinny hand so brown—”
224“Fear not, fear not, thou wedding guest!
225 This body dropt not down.”
226Alone, alone, all all alone
227 Alone on the wide wide Sea;
228And Christ would take no pity on
229 My soul in agony.
230The many men so beautiful,
231 And they all dead did lie!
232And a million million slimy things
233 Liv’d on—and so did I.
234 I look’d upon the rotting Sea,
235 And drew my eyes away;
236 I look’d upon the ghastly deck,
237 And there the dead men lay.
238 I look’d to Heaven, and try’d to pray;
239 But or ever a prayer had gusht,
240 A wicked whisper came and made
241 My heart as dry as dust.
242 I clos’d my lids and kept them close,
243 Till the balls like pulses beat;
244For the sky and the sea, and the sea and the sky
245Lay like a load on my weary eye,
246 And the dead were at my feet.
247The cold sweat melted from their limbs,
248 Nor rot, nor reek did they;
249The look with which they look’d on me,
250 Had never pass’d away.
251An orphan’s curse would drag to Hell
252 A spirit from on high:
253But O! more horrible than that
254 Is the curse in a dead man’s eye!
255Seven days, seven nights I saw that curse,
256 And yet I could not die.
257The moving Moon went up the sky
258 And no where did abide:
259Softly she was going up
260 And a star or two beside—
261Her beams bemock’d the sultry main
262 Like April hoar-frost spread;
263But where the ship’s huge shadow lay,
264The charmed water burnt alway
265 A still and awful red.
266Beyond the shadow of the ship
267 I watch’d the water-snakes:
268They mov’d in tracks of shining white;
269And when they rear’d, the elfish light
270 Fell off in hoary flakes.
271Within the shadow of the ship
272 I watch’d their rich attire:
273Blue, glossy green, and velvet black
274They coil’d and swam; and every track
275 Was a flash of golden fire.
276 O happy living things! no tongue
277 Their beauty might declare:
278 A spring of love gusht from my heart,
279 And I bless’d them unaware!
280Sure my kind saint took pity on me,
281 And I bless’d them unaware.
282The self-same moment I could pray;
283 And from my neck so free
284The Albatross fell off, and sank
285 Like lead into the sea.


286 O sleep, it is a gentle thing
287 Belov’d from pole to pole!
288To Mary-queen the praise be given
289She sent the gentle sleep from heaven
290 That slid into my soul.
291The silly buckets on the deck
292 That had so long remain’d,
293 I dreamt that they were fill’d with dew
294 And when I awoke it rain’d.
295My lips were wet, my throat was cold,
296 My garments all were dank;
297Sure I had drunken in my dreams
298 And still my body drank.
299 I mov’d and could not feel my limbs,
300 I was so light, almost
301 I thought that I had died in sleep,
302 And was a blessed Ghost.
303And soon I heard a roaring wind,
304 It did not come anear;
305But with its sound it shook the sails
306 That were so thin and sere.
307The upper air burst into life
308 And a hundred fire-flags sheen
309To and fro they were hurried about;
310And to and fro, and in and out
311 The wan stars danc’d between.
312And the coming wind did roar more loud;
313 And the sails did sigh like sedge:
314And the rain pour’d down from one black cloud
315 The moon was at its edge.
316The thick black cloud was cleft, and still
317 The Moon was at its side:
318Like waters shot from some high crag,
319The lightning fell, with never a jag
320 A river steep and wide.
321The loud wind never reach’d the Ship,
322 Yet now the Ship mov’d on!
323Beneath the lightning and the moon
324 The dead men gave a groan.
325They groan’d; they stirr’d, they all uprose,
326 Nor spake, nor mov’d their eyes:
327It had been strange, even in a dream
328 To have seen those dead men rise.
329The helmsman steerd, the ship mov’d on;
330 Yet never a breeze up-blew;
331The Mariners all gan work the ropes,
332 Where they were wont to do:
333They rais’d their limbs like lifeless tools—
334 We were a ghastly crew.
335The body of my brother’s son
336 Stood by me knee to knee:
337The body and I pull’d at one rope,
338 But he said nought to me.
339“I fear thee, ancient Mariner!”
340 “Be calm, thou wedding guest!
341’Twas not those souls, that fled in pain,
342Which to their corses came again,
343 But a troop of Spirits blest:”
344“For when it dawn’d—they dropp’d their arms,
345 And cluster’d round the mast:
346Sweet sounds rose slowly thro’ their mouths
347 And from their bodies pass’d.”
348Around, around, flew each sweet sound,
349 Then darted to the sun:
350Slowly the sounds came back again
351 Now mix’d, now one by one.
352Sometimes a dropping from the sky
353 I heard the Sky-lark sing;
354Sometimes all little birds that are
355How they seem’d to fill the sea and air
356 With their sweet jargoning.
357And now ’twas like all instruments,
358 Now like a lonely flute;
359And now it is an angel’s song
360 That makes the heavens be mute.
361It ceas’d: yet still the sails made on
362 A pleasant noise till noon,
363 A noise like of a hidden brook
364 In the leafy month of June,
365That to the sleeping woods all night,
366 Singeth a quiet tune.
367Till noon we silently sail’d on
368 Yet never a breeze did breathe:
369Slowly and smoothly went the Ship
370 Mov’d onward from beneath.
371Under the keel nine fathom deep
372 From the land of mist and snow
373The spirit slid: and it was He
374 That made the Ship to go.
375The sails at noon left off their tune
376 And the Ship stood still also.
377The sun right up above the mast
378 Had fix’d her to the ocean:
379But in a minute she ’gan stir
380 With a short uneasy motion—
381Backwards and forwards half her length
382 With a short uneasy motion.
383Then, like a pawing horse let go,
384 She made a sudden bound:
385It flung the blood into my head,
386 And I fell into a swound.
387How long in that same fit I lay,
388 I have not to declare;
389But ere my living life return’d,
390 I heard and in my soul discern’d
391 Two voices in the air.
392“Is it he?” quoth one, “Is this the man?
393 By him who died on cross,
394With his cruel bow he lay’d full low
395 The harmless Albatross.”
396“The spirit who ’bideth by himself
397 In the land of mist and snow,
398He lov’d the bird that lov’d the man
399 Who shot him with his bow.”
400The other was a softer voice,
401 As soft as honey-dew:
402Quoth he the man hath penance done,
403 And penance more will do.



404“But tell me, tell me! speak again,
405 Thy soft response renewing—
406What makes that ship drive on so fast?
407 What is the Ocean doing?”


408“Still as a Slave before his Lord,
409 The Ocean hath no blast:
410His great bright eye most silently
411 Up to the moon is cast—”
412“If he may know which way to go,
413 For she guides him smooth or grim,
414See, brother, see! how graciously
415 She looketh down on him.”


416“But why drives on that ship so fast
417 Without or wave or wind?”


418“The air is cut away before,
419 And closes from behind.”
420“Fly, brother, fly! more high, more high,
421 Or we shall be belated:
422For slow and slow that ship will go,
423 When the Mariner’s trance is abated.”
424 I woke, and we were sailing on
425 As in a gentle weather:
426’Twas night, calm night, the moon was high;
427 The dead men stood together.
428All stood together on the deck,
429 For a charnel-dungeon fitter:
430All fix’d on me their stony eyes
431 That in the moon did glitter.
432The pang, the curse, with which they died,
433 Had never pass’d away;
434 I could not draw my eyes from theirs
435 Nor turn them up to pray.
436And now this spell was snapt: once more
437 I view’d the ocean green,
438And look’d far forth, yet little saw
439 Of what had else been seen.
440Like one, that on a lonesome road
441 Doth walk in fear and dread,
442And having once turn’d round, walks on
443 And turns no more his head:
444Because he knows, a frightful fiend
445 Doth close behind him tread.
446But soon there breath’d a wind on me,
447 Nor sound nor motion made:
448Its path was not upon the sea
449 In ripple or in shade.
450It rais’d my hair, it fann’d my cheek,
451 Like a meadow-gale of spring—
452It mingled strangely with my fears,
453 Yet it felt like a welcoming.
454Swiftly, swiftly flew the ship
455 Yet she sail’d softly too:
456Sweetly, sweetly blew the breeze—
457 On me alone it blew.
458 O dream of joy! is this indeed
459 The light-house top I see?
460Is this the Hill? Is this the Kirk?
461 Is this mine own countrée?
462We drifted o’er the Harbour-bar,
463 And I with sobs did pray—
464“O let me be awake, my God!
465 Or let me sleep alway!”
466The harbour-bay was clear as glass,
467 So smoothly it was strewn!
468And on the bay the moonlight lay,
469 And the shadow of the moon.
470The rock shone bright, the kirk no less:
471 That stands above the rock:
472The moonlight steep’d in silentness
473 The steady weathercock.
474And the bay was white with silent light,
475 Till rising from the same
476Full many shapes, that shadows were,
477 In crimson colours came.
478 A little distance from the prow
479 Those crimson shadows were:
480 I turn’d my eyes upon the deck—
481 O Christ! what saw I there?
482Each corse lay flat, lifeless and flat;
483 And by the Holy rood
484 A man all light, a seraph-man,
485 On every corse there stood.
486This seraph-band, each wav’d his hand:
487 It was a heavenly sight:
488They stood as signals to the land,
489 Each one a lovely light:
490This seraph-band, each wav’d his hand,
491 No voice did they impart—
492No voice; but O! the silence sank,
493 Like music on my heart.
494But soon I heard the dash of oars,
495 I heard the pilot’s cheer:
496My head was turn’d perforce away
497 And I saw a boat appear.
498The pilot, and the pilot’s boy
499 I heard them coming fast:
500Dear Lord in Heaven! it was a joy,
501 The dead men could not blast.
502 I saw a third—I heard his voice:
503 It is the Hermit good!
504He singeth loud his godly hymns
505 That he makes in the wood.
506He’ll shrieve my soul, he’ll wash away
507 The Albatross’s blood.


508This Hermit good lives in that wood
509 Which slopes down to the Sea.
510How loudly his sweet voice he rears!
511He loves to talk with Mariners
512 That come from a far countrée.
513He kneels at morn and noon and eve—
514 He hath a cushion plump:
515It is the moss, that wholly hides
516 The rotted old Oak-stump.
517The Skiff-boat ner’d: I heard them talk,
518 “Why, this is strange, I trow!
519Where are those lights so many and fair
520 That signal made but now?”
521“Strange, by my faith!” the Hermit said—
522 “And they answer’d not our cheer.
523The planks look warp’d, and see those sails
524 How thin they are and sere!
525 I never saw aught like to them
526 Unless perchance it were”
527“The skeletons of leaves that lag
528 My forest brook along:
529When the Ivy-tod is heavy with snow,
530And the Owlet whoops to the wolf below
531 That eats the she-wolf’s young.”
532“Dear Lord! it has a fiendish look—”
533 (The Pilot made reply)
534“I am a-fear’d.”—“Push on, push on!”
535 “Said the Hermit cheerily.”
536The Boat came closer to the Ship,
537 But I nor spake nor stirr’d!
538The Boat came close beneath the Ship,
539 And strait a sound was heard!
540Under the water it rumbled on,
541 Still louder and more dread:
542It reach’d the Ship, it split the bay;
543 The Ship went down like lead.
544Stunn’d by that loud and dreadful sound,
545 Which sky and ocean smote:
546Like one that hath been seven days drown’d
547 My body lay afloat:
548But, swift as dreams, myself I found
549 Within the Pilot’s boat.
550Upon the whirl, where sank the Ship,
551 The boat spun round and round:
552And all was still, save that the hill
553 Was telling of the sound.
554 I mov’d my lips: the Pilot shriek’d
555 And fell down in a fit.
556The Holy Hermit rais’d his eyes
557 And pray’d where he did sit.
558 I took the oars: the Pilot’s boy,
559 Who now doth crazy go,
560Laugh’d loud and long, and all the while
561 His eyes went to and fro,
562“Ha! ha!” quoth he—“full plain I see,
563 The devil knows how to row.”
564And now all in mine own Countrée
565 I stood on the firm land!
566The Hermit stepp’d forth from the boat,
567 And scarcely he could stand.
568“O shrieve me, shrieve me, holy Man!”
569 The Hermit cross’d his brow—
570“Say quick,” quoth he, “I bid thee say
571 What manner man art thou?”
572Forthwith this frame of mind was wrench’d
573 With a woeful agony,
574Which forc’d me to begin my tale
575 And then it left me free.
576Since then at an uncertain hour,
577 That agency returns;
578And till my ghastly tale is told
579 This heart within me burns.
580 I pass, like night, from land to land;
581 I have strange power of speech;
582The moment that his face I see
583 I know the man that must hear me;
584 To him my tale I teach.
585What loud uproar bursts from that door!
586 The Wedding-guests are there;
587But in the Garden-bower the Bride
588 And Bride-maids singing are:
589And hark the little Vesper-bell
590 Which biddeth me to prayer.
591O Wedding-guest! this soul hath been
592 Alone on a wide wide sea:
593So lonely ’twas, that God himself
594 Scarce seemed there to be.
595O sweeter than the Marriage-feast,
596 ’Tis sweeter far to me
597To walk together to the Kirk
598 With a goodly company.
599To walk together to the Kirk
600 And all together pray,
601While each to his great father bends,
602Old men, and babes, and loving friends,
603 And Youths, and Maidens gay.
604Farewell, farewell! but this I tell
605 To thee, thou wedding-guest!
606He prayeth well who loveth well
607 Both man, and bird and beast.
608He prayeth best who loveth best
609 All things both great and small:
610For the dear God, who loveth us,
611 He made and loveth all.
612The Mariner, whose eye is bright,
613 Whose beard with age is hoar,
614Is gone; and now the wedding-guest
615 Turn’d from the bridegroom’s door.
616He went, like one that hath been stunn’d
617 And is of sense forlorn:
618 A sadder and a wiser man
619 He rose the morrow morn.
NOTE to the ANCIENT MARINER.—I cannot refuse myself the gratification of informing such Readers as may have been pleased with this Poem, or with any part of it, that they owe their pleasure in some sort to me; as the Author was himself very desirous that it should be suppressed. This wish had arisen from a consciousness of the defects of the Poem, and from a knowledge that many persons had been much displeased with it. The Poem of my Friend has indeed great defects; first, that the principal person has no distinct character, either in his profession of Mariner, or as a human being who having been long under the controul of supernatural impressions might be supposed himself to partake of something supernatural: secondly, that he does not act, but is continually acted upon: thirdly, that the events having no necessary connection do not produce each other; and lastly, that the imagery is somewhat too laboriously accumulated. Yet the Poem contains many delicate touches of passion, and indeed the passion is every where true to nature; a great number of the stanzas present beautiful images, and are expressed with unusual felicity of language; and the versification, though the metre is itself unfit for long poems, is harmonious and artfully varied, exhibiting the utmost powers of that metre, and every variety of which it is capable. It therefore appeared to me that these several merits (the first of which, namely that of the passion, is of the highest kind,) gave to the Poem a value which is not often possessed by better Poems. On this account I requested of my Friend to permit me to republish it.


Written a few miles above TINTERN ABBEY, an revisiting the banks of
the WYE during a Tour.
July 13, 1798.

1Five years have passed; five summers, with the length
2Of five long winters! and again I hear
3These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs
4With a sweet inland murmur. [6]—Once again
5Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
6Which on a wild secluded scene impress
7Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect
8The landscape with the quiet of the sky.
[Footnote 6: The river is not affected by the tides a few miles above Tintern.]
9The day is come when I again repose
10Here, under this dark sycamore, and view
11These plots of cottage-ground, these orchard-tufts,
12Which, at this season, with their unripe fruits,
13Among the woods and copses lose themselves,
14Nor, with their green and simple hue, disturb
15The wild green landscape. Once again I see
16These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines
17Of sportive wood run wild; these pastoral farms
18Green to the very door; and wreathes of smoke
19Sent up, in silence, from among the trees,
20With some uncertain notice, as might seem,
21Of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods,
22Or of some hermit’s cave, where by his fire
23The hermit sits alone.
24 Though absent long.
25These forms of beauty have not been to me,
26As is a landscape to a blind man’s eye:
27But oft, in lonely rooms, and mid the din
28Of towns and cities, I have owed to them,
29In hours of wariness, sensations sweet,
30Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart,
31And passing even into my purer mind,
32With tranquil restoration:—feelings too
33Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps,
34As may have had no trivial influence
35On that best portion of a good man’s life;
36His little, nameless, unremembered acts
37Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust,
38To them I may have owed another gift,
39Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,
40In which the burthen of the mystery,
41In which the heavy and the weary weight
42Of all this unintelligible world
43Is lighten’d:—that serene and blessed mood;
44In which the affections gently lead us on,
45Until, the breath of this corporeal frame,
46And even the motion of our human blood
47Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
48In body, and become a living soul:
49While with an eye made quiet by the power
50Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
51We see into the life of things.
52 If this
53Be but a vain belief, yet, oh! how oft,
54In darkness, and amid the many shapes
55Of joyless day-light; when the fretful stir
56Unprofitable, and the fever of the world,
57Have hung upon the beatings of my heart,
58How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee
59 O sylvan Wye! Thou wanderer through the woods,
60How often has my spirit turned to thee!
61And now, with gleams, of half-extinguish’d thought,
62With many recognitions dim and faint,
63And somewhat of a sad perplexity,
64The picture of the mind revives again:
65While here I stand, not only with the sense
66Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts
67That in this moment there is life and food
68For future years. And so I dare to hope
69Though changed, no doubt, from what I was, when first
70 I came among these hills; when like a roe
71 I bounded o’er the mountains, by the sides
72Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams,
73Wherever nature led: more like a man
74Flying from something that he dreads, than one
75Who sought the thing he loved. For nature then
76(The coarser pleasures of my boyish days,
77And their glad animal movements all gone by,)
78To me was all in all.—I cannot paint
79What then I was. The sounding cataract
80Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock,
81The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,
82Their colours and their forms, were then to me
83An appetite: a feeling and a love,
84That had no need of a remoter charm,
85By thought supplied, or any interest
86Unborrowed from the eye.—That time is past,
87And all its aching joys are now no more,
88And all its dizzy raptures. Not for this
89Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur: other gifts
90Have followed, for such loss, I would believe
91Abundant recompence. For I have learned
92To look on nature, not as in the hour
93Of thoughtless youth, but hearing oftentimes
94The still, sad music of humanity,
95Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
96To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
97 A presence that disturbs me with the joy
98Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
99Of something far more deeply interfused,
100Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
101And the round ocean, and the living air,
102And the blue sky, and in the mind of man,
103 A motion and a spirit, that impels
104All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
105And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still
106 A lover of the meadows and the woods,
107And mountains; and of all that we behold
108From this green earth; of all the mighty world
109Of eye and ear; both what they half create, [7]
110And what perceive; well pleased to recognize
111In nature and the language of the sense,
112The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
113The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
114Of all my moral being.
[Footnote 7: This line has a close resemblance to an admirable line of Young, the exact expression of which I cannot recollect.]
115 Nor, perchance,
116If I were not thus taught, should I the more
117Suffer my genial spirits to decay?
118For thou art with me, here, upon the banks
119Of this fair river; thou, my dearest Friend,
120My dear, dear Friend, and in thy voice I catch
121The language of my former heart, and read
122My former pleasures in the shooting lights
123Of thy wild eyes. Oh! yet a little while
124May I behold in thee what I was once,
125My dear, dear Sister! And this prayer I make,
126Knowing that Nature never did betray
127The heart that loved her; ’tis her privilege,
128Through all the years of this our life, to lead
129From joy to joy: for she can so inform
130The mind that is within us, so impress
131With quietness and beauty, and so feed
132With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues,
133Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men,
134Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all
135The dreary intercourse of daily life,
136Shall e’er prevail against us, or disturb
137Our chearful faith that all which we behold
138Is full of blessings. Therefore let the moon
139Shine on thee in thy solitary walk;
140And let the misty mountain winds be free
141To blow against thee: and in after years,
142When these wild ecstasies shall be matured
143Into a sober pleasure, when thy mind
144Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms,
145Thy memory be as a dwelling-place
146For all sweet sounds and harmonies; Oh! then,
147If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief,
148Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts
149Of tender joy wilt thou remember me,
150And these my exhortations! Nor perchance,
151If I should be, where I no more can hear
152Thy voice, nor catch from thy wild eyes these gleams
153Of past existence, wilt thou then forget
154That on the banks of this delightful stream
155We stood together; and that I, so long
156 A worshipper of Nature, hither came,
157Unwearied in that service: rather say
158With warmer love, oh! with far deeper zeal
159Of holier love. Nor wilt thou then forget,
160That after many wanderings, many years
161Of absence, these steep woods and lofty cliffs,
162And this green pastoral landscape, were to me
163More dear, both for themselves, and for thy sake.
NOTE to the Poem ON REVISITING THE WYE. —I have not ventured to call this Poem an Ode; but it was written with a hope that in the transitions, and the impassioned music of the versification would be found the principal requisites of that species of composition.